1. Get to know YOUR IBS
Everyone is different and every persons IBS is different. What works for some will not work for you and vice versa.
2. Become a detective
Spend some time investigating your IBS. Try to identify what causes your IBS to flare. Is it foods, stress, menstrual cycle, sleep or medication? Try to keep a track on this for at least 3 months to give yourself a good opportunity to come into contact with foods and stressful times.
3. Talk to people
This is very important! People with IBS get despondent, depressed, anxious and this leads to becoming more socially isolated. IBS is very common. It is likely that more than 1 in 5 of the people you know also have IBS. They will understand and be supportive. Beware!! You may end up supporting them as many people with IBS never seek help
4. Talk to people at work
If you are struggling at work because you keep needing to go to the toilet or have bouts of severe pain that doubles you up – speak to your co-workers and managers.
They are much more likely to be supportive if they understand what is going on and what adjustments can be made to make you more comfortable and from their perspective, more efficient.
This sounds easy but most people are embarrassed by their IBS and don’t want to discuss it. However a simple step such as moving to sit nearer the toilet can reduce the embarrassment of repeated visits during an IBS flare.
5. Investigate the other options
Many people come to see me concerned that their IBS may be something more sinister. These thoughts have often been eating away at them for some time before they pluck up the courage to see their GP. The stress that this causes can often worsen their IBS.
Please don’t wait. There are other conditions that are similar to IBS but a good GP can easily rule these out by taking a good history, examining you and carrying out investigations- blood and stool tests.
If they are still uncertain, they will refer you to see a gastroenterologist, a specialist who will carry out further tests to get you a diagnosis and then a management plan tailored to your IBS.
6. IBS is a good reason to make changes
We now have a lot of experience at helping people with IBS and there has been a lot of research into what helps and what does not.
Lifestyle, as with most other conditions, has a big impact on IBS. We know that increasing exercise, improving sleep, reducing stress and altering diets can help reduce the symptoms of IBS.
7. Medication can help
BUT it needs to be the right medication for you.
There are now several types of IBS:
IBS-C where symptoms of constipation are common.
IBS-D where symptoms of diarrhoea are common.
IBS-M where people have equal symptoms of both diarrhoea and constipation.
1/3 of people with IBS fit into each group BUT the treatment can be very different for each group. Do some research and have a chat with your GP who should be able to assist in a tailored treatment plan that fits your needs.
8. Medication is not just Medicine
There are other ways to ease your IBS, even prevent flares of IBS, without having to take tablets.
Some people respond best to non-medication treatment regimes or use these alongside the medication.
These non-medication regimes include:
Psychological support – we know that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Hypnotherapy, Mindfulness training as well as other psychological supports can reduce the symptoms and the impact of IBS on your life.
Please speak to your GP about these and what support there is locally and most importantly, what is the waiting time to get this support. If it is going to be a long time before you can get help, consider whether you can afford to self-fund this type of support.
Nutritional support – there is so much information available for IBS and some of it seems contradictory, especially about what is good to eat. This is because no two people with IBS are identical.
Sometimes it is good to discuss this with a GP who has a special interest in nutrition, nutritionist or dietician. They have years of training and experience in managing people with IBS. Their advice and support can really help reduce the symptoms and effects of IBS.
Over three quarters of people with IBS get benefit from an interesting change to their diet. By reducing a range of foods that can ferment inside your bowels, the production of wind and pain and the changes to your bowels can be improve.
10. The two important ‘P’s’
There are two simple, safe and in some people (remember there is no single treatment for IBS) very effective treatments for IBS.
Probiotics – like most treatments for IBS, probiotics helps some but not all. There is also the issue that the probiotics used in the studies may differ from those available to purchase. There are good online resources to assist in choosing the right probiotic at the right dose for your needs. Please do research before trying
Peppermint – this is an often overlooked, simple and effective treatment for the pain and bloating in IBS. There are a few issues to be aware of. Some people are allergic to peppermint and should not take these. Some capsules contain arachis oil derived from peanuts. If you have peanut allergy avoid these. The pharmacist or your GP can help with this. They can sometimes cause indigestion and soreness of the anus. However if you burp or fart, it will be minty so every cloud.
To book an appointment with one of our GPs, please call 0161 428 4464.