Around 1 in 5 people in the UK will experience IBS at some point in their lives. With IBS, the function of the gut is upset, yet all parts of the gut look normal, even when looked at under a microscope. IBS can affect anyone at any age, with women more often impacted than men.
What is IBS?
IBS is also known as spastic colon, irritable colon, mucous colitis, and spastic colitis. It is a different condition from inflammatory bowel disease and separate from other bowel conditions. IBS is a group of intestinal symptoms that typically occur together.
The symptoms of IBS vary in severity and duration from person to person. However, they last at least three months for at least three days per month.
The most common include:
• Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that is related to passing a bowel movement
• Changes in appearance of bowel movement
• Changes in how often you are having a bowel movement
• Bloating, increased gas or mucus in the stool
When to see a Doctor
See a GP if you have a persistent change in bowel habits, or other signs or symptoms of IBS. It’s important to rule out a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. More-serious signs and symptoms include:
• Diarrhoea at night
• Weight loss
• Rectal bleeding
• Iron deficiency anaemia
• Unexplained vomiting
• Difficulty swallowing
• Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement
Diagnosis and Treatment
There’s no specific test for IBS, however you might need some tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
The doctor may arrange:
• A blood test to check for problems like coeliac disease
• Tests on a sample of your poo to check for infections and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
You will not usually need further tests in hospital unless the GP is not sure what the problem is.
There are many different treatments for IBS. Your doctor will advise on the best course of action for you. Medication that might be prescribed is antispasmodic medicine for tummy (abdominal) pain. These relax the muscles in the wall of the gut and can help to ease the pain.
Many people with mild IBS symptoms don’t need any treatment. No treatment is likely to take away symptoms completely; however, treatment can often ease symptoms and improve your quality of life.
For many people, the key to managing IBS symptoms is to avoid triggers. Certain foods as well as stress and anxiety can be triggers for IBS symptoms for many people.
Certain foods are common triggers for many people with IBS. However, some of these foods may have a greater effect on you than others. It may help to keep a food diary for a couple of months to learn which foods are triggers for you.
Recognising in advance situations that may increase your levels of stress and anxiety can help. This can give you time to either plan to avoid these situations when possible or develop strategies to limit the stress and anxiety.
IBS and Stress
The automatic movement of your digestive system is controlled to a great degree by your nervous system. Stress can affect your nerves, making your digestive system overactive. If you have IBS, your colon may be overly responsive to even slight disruption of your digestive system. It is also believed that IBS is affected by the immune system, which is affected by stress. Developing strategies to minimise and cope with stress will help to manage IBS symptoms.
Diet and Nutrition
As well as keeping a food diary, seeing a qualified Nutritionist to develop an individualised eating plan can help you to manage your IBS. The experts at our Nutrition Service can work with you to identify which foods and habits might cause you distress and review healthy eating strategies to help you manage your symptoms. Find out more https://www.privategpextra.com/nutrition-private-gp-extra/
At Private GP Extra, patients have access to highly experienced GPs across the North West of England, at a time to suit them. Our doctors provide a personalised service, with continuity of care, for every person and can also offer a smooth and rapid onward referral to a specialist, if required. To book an appointment with one of our GPs, please visit https://www.privategpextra.com/appointments/ or call 0161 428 4464.