What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?


Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, is one of those conditions where there is no specific cause known, and where there is no specific cure. However, there is enough known about it to be able to clearly identify symptoms, and understand enough of the triggers to be able to give people practical advice about how best to minimise its effects, and treat it.

What is IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome occurs in a significant number of people, estimates put it at one in five Australians during their lifetime. Symptoms tend to include someone having a fair degree of pain in the abdomen or having stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhoea and quite often the person will feel sick as well.

There is no doubt that IBS it a very unpleasant condition to have, but generally is one that passes for most people over time, and is not thought to contribute to any other problems that people may have, such as bowel cancer.

Causes of IBS

The specific causes of IBS are unknown, but as with other conditions such as asthma, clinicians have been able to identify enough triggers to help people understand it, and make significant changes in their lifestyle and diet to reduce or eliminate its worst effects

The main triggers fall into two categories, that can probably be classed as medical and lifestyle. The medical triggers tend to refer to some type of infection or food poisoning that alters nerve function in the bowel, that can persist long after the infection has passed. Lifestyle triggers tend to refer to things such as food intolerance and general diet, and intense emotional stress.

Understanding these triggers is important as treatment is effectively determined by focusing on which triggers seem most relevant to the individual concerned.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment

The main areas of irritable bowel syndrome treatment tend to focus on changes in lifestyle and diet, and the possible use of some medication where appropriate.

The changes in diet are quite often changes that would be recommended to people wanting to adopt a healthier diet more generally. The advice tends to include drinking plenty of clear fluids, ideally water, and avoidance of sugary drinks such as tinned cola etc, as well as the avoidance of drinking too much coffee. Some people advocate taking coffee and tea out of a diet altogether.

Regarding food, the advice tends to be to eat more fibre, avoid dairy foods whereever possible, and to eliminate foods that are known to produce gas in the body, such as baked beans, cabbage etc.

The other major change in lifestyle relate to emotional stress. This is often more difficult to deal with, as the causes of the stress maybe out of someone's control. However there are a wide range of stress management techniques, ranging from yoga to meditation that may well prove helpful to people.

There are some instances where medication can help, especially if chronic and persistent diarrhoea is present as part of the condition. There are a number of over the counter medications that can be bought and are generally very effective.

Some people also recommend the use of antispasmodic and antidepressants drugs to help with the abdominal pain and cramps, although this would normally only be considered in excessive cases, and where the advice of a qualified clinician is sought. People would need to carefully consider the side effects of these drugs before taking them.


19 November 2019

Living With Varicose Veins

When I first started noticing veins protruding from my lower legs, I did my best to ignore them. However, I knew they were likely varicose veins, as both my parents have had varicose veins for several years. Eventually, I went to see my doctor due to experiencing leg swelling and red patches of skin, which turned out to be varicose eczema. I was prescribed the usual treatment, and my doctor discussed surgery to strip out the damaged veins, but I decided to postpone surgery and look at managing the swelling and protrusion of veins naturally. I started this blog to share my own experiences of trying complementary therapies, such as homeopathy, herbal medicine and massage, to manage my symptoms. I hope you find my posts useful and interesting.