Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that is associated with persistent abdominal pain and discomfort, coupled with abnormal bowel movements (Dimidi and Whelan, 2020), such as constipation and/or diarrhoea.
Bloating is also an extremely common symptom reported by IBS sufferers, affecting 10-30% (Pop et al., 2018) of individuals living with IBS.
There are three sub-categories of IBS which have been identified (Ireton-Jones and Weisberg, 2020):
1) IBS-C (constipation)
2) IBS-D (diarrhoea)
3) IBS-M (both constipation and diarrhoea occur)
IBS symptoms typically develop when a person is younger and usually exacerbates with age (Sierżantowicz et al., 2020). The most commonly reported symptoms from IBS suffers are: abnormal bowel movements (stool form and frequency), abdominal pain, bloating, visceral hypersensitivity (increased pain of inner organs), and greater physiological distress and feelings of anxiety and/ or depression (Midenfjord et al., 2020) . It is important to note that not everyone who suffers with IBS experiences the same symptoms. Similarly, what triggers one person’s IBS may not trigger someone else’s, it is very individualistic (Ireton-Jones and Weisberg, 2020).
Many individuals who suffer with IBS experience a much lower quality of life (Kinsinger, 2017, Sierżantowicz et al., 2020) and often do not receive a definitive diagnosis for several years (Ireton-Jones and Weisberg, 2020). This in turn could increase their physiological distress and overall outlook of life.
As an example IBS can significantly impact someone’s social life. Many IBS patients experience anxiety, especially in social situations where access to a toilet is not readily available or when they have to eat in public (Kinsinger, 2017). This fear puts stress on the body and can massively affect gut sensitivity. Therefore, many IBS sufferers do not feel very comfortable leaving their home or travelling somewhere they have never been before as they are not familiar with the surroundings (i.e. the location of the toilet). You can imagine how awful this is.
There is increasing evidence that the bidirectional (two – way) communication between our brain and gut has a significant influence over the severity of IBS symptoms. This is better known as the gut – brain axis, a whole separate discussion topic which I will cover in another blog post soon.
I also just want to quickly speak about some activities which may help relieve a person’s IBS symptoms. Again, it is very important to point out that this too is very personal but some behavioural changes someone could try implementing include:
- Some other form of physical activity such as walking
Behavioural changes should hopefully help relieve some stress and anxiety an individual may be feeling, this in turn may reduce the intensity of their IBS symptoms; slightly improving their quality of life.
IBS is one of the most prevalent gastrointestinal disorders worldwide (Hsieh et al., 2019), but many individuals are still unaware they are suffering as IBS is difficult to diagnose (Ireton-Jones and Weisberg, 2020). Therefore, it is imperative we talk about IBS more and our gut health in general, it is more important than you might think!
I hope this relatively brief post on IBS has explained this awful condition in a little more detail. Whether you suffer with IBS yourself or are close to someone that does (personal experience) it really does massively impact your life.
Finally, please please please speak to your GP at first instance if you have any worries about your gut health or IBS (or ANY OTHER ISSUE WHICH IS CAUSING YOU TO WORRY). They may suggest you go on to speak to a registered nutritionist or dietitian for further specialised advice, but it is SO important to make that first step with your GP.
Love, Mais xx
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DIMIDI, E. & WHELAN, K. 2020. Food supplements and diet as treatment options in irritable bowel syndrome. Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 32, 7.
ENCK, P., AZIZ, Q., BARBARA, G., FARMER, A. D., FUKUDO, S., MAYER, E. A., NIESLER, B., QUIGLEY, E. M. M., RAJILIĆ-STOJANOVIĆ, M., SCHEMANN, M., SCHWILLE-KIUNTKE, J., SIMREN, M., ZIPFEL, S. & SPILLER, R. C. 2016. Irritable bowel syndrome. Nature reviews. Disease primers, 2, 16014-16014.
HSIEH, M. S., HSU, W. H., WANG, J. W., WANG, Y. K., HU, H. M., CHANG, W. K., CHEN, C. Y., WU, D. C., KUO, F. C. & SU, W. W. 2019. Nutritional and dietary strategy in the clinical care of inflammatory bowel disease. J Formos Med Assoc.
IRETON-JONES, C. & WEISBERG, M. F. 2020. Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Physician-Dietitian Collaboration. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 35, 826-834.
KINSINGER, S. W. 2017. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients with irritable bowel syndrome: current insights. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 10, 231-237.
MIDENFJORD, I., POLSTER, A., SJÖVALL, H., FRIBERG, P., TÖRNBLOM, H. & SIMRÉN, M. 2020. Associations among neurophysiology measures in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and their relevance for IBS symptoms. Scientific reports, 10, 1-11.
POP, L. L., MURESAN, I. A. & DUMITRASCU, D. L. 2018. How much bloating in the irritable bowel syndrome? Romanian Journal of Internal Medicine, 56, 221-226.
SIERŻANTOWICZ, R., LEWKO, J. & JURKOWSKA, G. 2020. The Impact of an Individual Educational Program on the Quality of Life and Severity of Symptoms of Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17, 4230.