Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) 

 

What is IBS?

IBS is believed to be the most common gastrointestinal disorder with prevalence rates ranging between 5% and 20%, depending on where you are in the world (Western Countries tend to have higher prevalence) and the criteria used for assessment.

You may experience some, or all, of these symptoms:

  • abdominal pain

  • bloating or abdominal distension

  • excessive flatulence

  • diarrhoea  - greater than 3 bowel movements/day - may be associated with urgency

  • constipation  - less than 3 bowel movements/week (1/ day is optimal with constipation) and may be associated with excessive straining at stool.

A person could have both constipation and diarrhoea.

Abdominal pain may come in bouts of continuous dull aching or cramps, usually over the lower abdomen.

Other symptoms associated with IBS may include nausea, headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, muscle aches, difficulty concentrating.

Symptoms may be relieved by having a bowel movement.

 

Diagnosing IBS:

There is no simple diagnostic test for IBS. Most people with IBS appear healthy.

 

Doctors generally base the diagnosis of IBS on the characteristics of a person's symptoms. Doctors may do tests to diagnose / rule out illnesses that can cause similar symptoms. In IBS there are no structural abnormalities that can be found with endoscopy testing, x-rays, biopsies, or blood tests.

 

Why do I get IBS?

The cause of IBS is unclear.

 

Symptoms and triggers of IBS differ from person to person. However it is likely that a person may experience some or all of the following:

  • Discomfort caused by intestinal gas or gastrointestinal contractions that other people do not find troubling

  • Emotional factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, fear

  • Diet, drugs (including laxatives), hormones, or minor irritants may trigger or worsen a flare-up of IBS

  • High-calorie meals or a high-fat diet may trigger symptoms

  • In some people, wheat, dairy products, beans, chocolate, coffee, tea, some artificial sweeteners, certain vegetables, or fruits may aggravate symptoms. It may be difficult however to identify a specific food trigger

  • In some people, symptoms of IBS begin after an episode of gastroenteritis

  • Eating too quickly or eating after long a period without food stimulates a flare-up

  • The condition of the gastrointestinal microflora may contribute and be an underlying cause in IBS.

 

The relationship between IBS symptoms and cause may be inconsistent. People do not always get symptoms after a usual trigger, and symptoms can often appear without any obvious trigger.

Natural treatment aims in IBS include:

  • ‘Normalising’ bowel habit

  • Improving the microflora in the gastrointestinal tract

  • Supporting the nervous system

  • Decreasing gut inflammation / reactions

  • Improving liver function in people who have constipation

  • Assessing for and managing possible food allergens and intolerances

 

As every person with IBS has their own unique range of signs and symptoms and also diet lifestyle and other factors, natural treatment recommendations are tailored specifically for each person.

Some tests may be recommended in order to help understand your underlying causes.

 

Treatments are likely to include a combination of:

  • Achievable dietary modifications. I generally try to recommend ‘food swaps’ or achievable alternatives where possible

  • In IBS there may be a need to consider an elimination diet.  This is the temporary removal of certain foods or food groups to identify triggers /worsening of symptoms and/or to reduce inflammatory response of certain foods in your digestive system.  The aim of treatment longer term however is for you to be able to enjoy as much variety in your diet as possible

  • Lifestyle considerations – generally there may be things that you can do to help reduce your IBS symptoms e.g. better sleep, reduce stress.  I help you to identify where those are and aim to suggest achievable ways for you to incorporate into your life.

  • Nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, probiotics, and herbal supplements are recommended specific to your situation.  The aim of using supplementation is to help bring your body back into a state of balance - to relieve symptoms as well as to help bring about proper functioning of your digestive system.

 

  • Periodically reviewing symptoms and treatments.  Consultations generally start off frequently during the first month or two, but taper off as treatment progresses. Whilst consultations may reduce in frequency, supplementation may need to continue to support your body in the healing processes.

 

Need help to tackle your IBS?

If you have IBS you may have been experiencing your symptoms for many years.

You may have tried all sorts of things in an attempt to alleviate and help manage your symptoms.  You may have had some successes, but have not totally got to the bottom (pun intended :) ) of your issue. Alternatively, you may be just trying to ignore the symptoms.

But you and I know that living with the symptoms of IBS is impacting on your every day quality of life.

If you are tired of your IBS symptoms and are seeking caring support and effective natural treatments, I would love to help you.

References:

Moayyedi, P., Mearin, F., Azpiroz, F., Andresen, V., Barbara, G., Corsetti, M., Tack, J. (2017). Irritable bowel syndrome diagnosis and management: A simplified algorithm for clinical practice. United European gastroenterology journal, 5(6), 773–788. doi:10.1177/2050640617731968

Moleski, S. Merck Manual. (2017). Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Retrieved 5 July 2019 from, https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-au/home/digestive-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs?query=Irritable%20Bowel%20Syndrome%20(IBS)

CONTACT

Sharelle Parry Naturopath

 

Suite 301, Level 3, 180 Queen Street

Brisbane Q 4000

(in the Queen Street Mall above Country Road)

P: 0424 997 871

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Wednesday - Friday: 7:30am - 6pm

by appointment,

other times available by arrangement.

 

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