IBS Awareness

IBS Awareness

Apr 14, 2024Nicole Saliba

Did you know that April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) awareness month? In this month’s blog our resident dietitian and gut health guru Nicky unpacks what IBS is, how its diagnosed and her top tips for managing it.

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional gut disorder that occurs when the brain and gut are not communicating properly with each other. The main symptoms of IBS include abdominal discomfort, bloating and a change in bowel habits where people experience constipation or diarrhoea or both. Other symptoms may include fatigue, excessive flatulence (farting), bloating and an urgency to open your bowels. No two people will have the exact same symptoms. IBS is a chronic condition which means it is usually present for a long time but it is common for symptoms to wax and wane. IBS affects 1 in 7 people and is more common in women compared to men.

How is IBS diagnosed?

IBS should be diagnosed by a medical professional such as a GP or gastroenterologist and not self-diagnosed. This is because symptoms of IBS may overlap with other conditions such as bowel cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or Coeliac disease. Your doctor will also be able to run tests to confirm your diagnosis, exclude other conditions and screen for red flags such as unintentional weight loss, blood in your poop or a family history of bowel cancer, which may mean something more sinister is going on.

How is IBS managed?

Unfortunately there is no cure for IBS. However, there are a large number of treatment options available to manage IBS symptoms. It is important to work with your doctor or dietitian to help you to identify a treatment that is best suited to your main symptoms and the underlying cause of these symptoms. Sometimes there is a little trial and error involved when trying to find the best option to help improve your symptoms.
Therapies sometimes used to manage symptoms of IBS:

  • Looking at meal timing and meal regularity
  • Low FODMAP diet- A short-term diet that involves reducing your intake of foods which contain fermentable carbohydrates which can cause water to be pulled into your bowel and gas to be produced which in turn stretch the bowel wall and contribute to symptoms of pain, bloating and altered bowel habits
  • Modifying fibre intake – via dietary changes or supplements
  • Reducing your fat intake
  • Reducing your caffeine intake
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Reducing your intake of spicy foods
  • Prescription medications such as antispasmodics, antidepressants, anti-diarrheal agents, antibiotics
  • Over the counter medications, such as peppermint oil, laxatives and probiotics
  • Exercise
  • Gut directed hypnotherapy
  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Stress management

My top tips for managing your IBS symptoms

  • Don't skip meals, aim for three regular meals
  • Chew properly and eat slowly
  • Take steps to manage your stress
  • Make sure to get enough fluid and fibre in
  • Look at your FODMAP intake, if it's high trial a low fodmap diet for 3 weeks alongside a FODMAP-trained dietitian (that’s me!)
  • Check any of the foods your are eating for inulin- its being added to a lot of muesli, breads and products marketed as being gut-friendly
  • Avoid chewing gums and mints with a sugar called sorbitol
  • Watch your intake of fatty foods and spicy foods
  • Cut back or eliminate alcohol

If you are struggling to manage your IBS symptoms book in with a specialised dietitian such as one of our team members at Eatsense by calling 43113623.

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