Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is very common and affects up to 20% of people (about two thirds of whom are women) at some point in their lives. But you do NOT have to “just live with it”.
- Abdominal pain and cramping – often relieved by emptying your bowels
- Bloating and swelling of your abdomen
- A change in your bowel habits – experiencing constipation or diarrhoea
- Excessive wind
- An urgent need to go to the toilet
- A feeling that you still need to open your bowels even when you’ve just been
- A feeling that your bowels are not completely empty
- Passing mucus
Three main patterns of bowel symptoms in IBS
IBS with constipation (IBS – C) when you have repeated bouts of constipation
IBS with diarrhoea (IBS – D) when you have repeated bouts of diarrhoea
IBS mixed – when you have repeated bouts of diarrhoea and constipation
Diarrhoea alternating with constipation is the most common pattern, although some people are diagnosed with IBS for chronic constipation.
However, labelling people with IBS, and defining categories of IBS is pointless as the only conventional treatments available are palliative measures such as laxatives, anti-diarrhoeals or anti-spasmodics for cramps.
Some GPs tell people to eat more fibre and try to de-stress. Most people just learn to live with it.
IBS can be very restrictive. We have many patients who won’t go to a new destination unless they can be assured that there are toilets nearby.
Holding a full-time job is very difficult as their bowels can be so unpredictable in the mornings and, unsurprisingly, the condition also affects their social lives.
What causes IBS?
There are many, many causes of IBS, and everyone’s IBS experience is different. Even when two individuals share the same pathologies, they may have quite different IBS symptoms. It’s likely that the difference is determined by their own unique physiology.
These are immediate onset “classic allergies” mediated by IgE antibodies.
These are delayed onset food allergies, mediated by IgG antibodies.
Simply an imbalance of bacteria, not enough beneficial flora.
Lactose and fructose intolerance may be the cause or a contributing factor.
Such as Candida, Geotrichum and others.
Low Stomach acid
And/or digestive enzymes.
We live increasingly stressful lives, and many people can get locked in to a state of sympathetic dominance where their bodies are in permanent “fight or flight”mode. This has the effect of shutting down digestion or, at least, slowing it, causing IBS symptoms to occur.
In the UK parasitic infections are seen in around 30% of all IBS patients. Blastocystis Hominis, Dientamoeba Fragilis (see our section on parasitic infection for more information), are most commonly found.
In either small or large intestine. In the small intestine this is known as SIBO, which stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. This is seen in 40-50% of IBS patients
IBS does not have to rule your life!
As IBS is not a disease, but a collection of symptoms, it is important to identify the causes of your particular IBS. IBS Clinics can help you to do this, by recommending diet and lifestyle changes and, where appropriate, nutritional supplements that will reduce your symptoms.