Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a commonly used term by medical professionals to diagnose or label a number of digestive symptoms and complications. These symptoms are considered common and include changes in bowel movements and abdominal pain.
Many people are living with IBS and accepting symptoms as ‘normal’. We’re here to let you know that that these symptoms aren’t normal, and symptoms can be managed with a few tweaks to diet and lifestyle.
There are no tests to confirm IBS. The symptoms you have, and how long you’ve been experiencing them for will be factors in diagnosis. However, there are similarities with other digestive conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, so sometimes digging deeper for the root cause is necessary. This usually involves blood tests and/or stool tests with the GP.
Symptoms of IBS:
Symptoms tend to appear at least three days or more each month, and are consistent for longer than 3 – 6 months. These include:
- Diarrhoea and/or constipation (less than three bowel movements per week)
- Change in appearance of stools
- Gas and burping
- Cramps, aches and pain
- Nausea, heartburn or acid indigestion
- Loss of appetite or feeling full
In addition, you might be experiencing:
- Anxiety and depression
- Fatigue and trouble sleeping
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Aching muscles
- Heart palpitations
- Low libido
- Frequency or trouble urinating
What causes IBS?
The root cause of IBS varies amongst individuals and other digestive disorders should be ruled out if symptoms are persistent and severe. Listed below are the common reasons why IBS might appear:
- Allergies: Dairy and gluten can trigger symptoms. Familiar with the feeling of bloating and wind after a piece of cake or an ice cream?
- Emotional stress and Anxiety: There is a link between the digestive system and the brain; the gut is responsible for the production of neurotransmitters, which affects how we feel… and what we feel often affects our gut. Ever had a gut feeling?
- Travelling: This can change the internal bacteria and even more so with foreign foods. When travelling to far away places, we always recommend a good quality travellers probiotic that includes Saccharomyces Boulardii to protect the gut from unfamiliar bacterias. If you are an anxious traveller, this could also be driving IBS symptoms.
- Sleep: Changes in sleep patterns or poor quality sleep can unsettle the digestive system. Never underestimate the power of sleep! (an article coming soon on that)
- Hormonal changes: Hormone imbalances including puberty, PMS, but most commonly menopause.
It’s worth noting or tracking what improves or aggravates your symptoms. There’s no need to suffer with these symptoms, improvements can be made with some simple changes to diet and lifestyle, for example:
- Food Triggers: It’s helpful to understand which foods your body is reacting to. This also applies to healthy foods like onions, garlic and broccoli. Eliminating known trigger foods is a really good start.
Common triggers foods:
- some dairy products
- caffeine and alcohol
- spicy foods
- refined sugar and white flour
- wheat, barley and rye (they contain gluten)
- eggs, nuts and shellfish
- any fruits and veg that are triggering symptoms – although this isn’t an excuse not to eat fruit and veg!
- Exercise: There are so many benefits to exercise – the key is to pick an exercise that you enjoy doing. Exercising and movement is particularly useful for the relief of IBS symptoms. This might be because it has a stimulatory effect on internal muscles that might help relieve constipation, it could also be down to the ‘feel good factor’ that exercise provides, thus lowering any anxiety or stress.
- Manage stress: In stressful situations which most of us experience daily, the digestive system almost shuts down non-essential body functions. Find what works for you as long as it’s acts of ‘self love’ rather than unhealthy distractions such as alcohol, gaming for example. Experiment with acupuncture, massage, mindfulness, yoga, meditation nature, hobbies, cooking..
- Try some natural herbs: Slippery elm, liquorice teas, peppermint and ginger can all be added in to your diet and are known for their soothing properties, and positive effects on IBS. There are some natural supplements available in health food shops that can also relieve symptoms such as; Adaptogenic herbs, L-glutamine, Aloe Vera, Omega fish oils, probiotics and digestive enzymes.
We understand that choosing good quality supplements can be a bit of a minefield, so if you’d like some support and advice for these then please get in touch.
- Functional Testing: GP’s can provide stool tests that are limited in their findings, which often leaves IBS sufferers feeling frustrated. Whilst we don’t seek to diagnose, we can provide functional lab testing that provides an insight in to what is actually happening inside your body. These tests guide our course of action, which results in a more tailored approach to your needs and your biological make up.
In a nut-shell
IBS sufferers need not suffer.
Acknowledging the triggers and removing them is a good place to start.
Moving more, managing stress, and providing the body with what it needs is very effective.
Focusing on relaxation, quality sleep, nourishing foods, and natural herbs is essential.
And finally …testing removes the guessing.
If you’d like a personalised nutrition plan that is tailored to your lifestyle, preferences, and specific health needs we are here to help.