Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – what is it and how can it be managed?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is very common and affects the lives of many people in Ireland. Making simple diet and lifestyle changes can greatly improve the quality of life for people living with this disorder. Let’s look closer at IBS and the ways it can be managed.
What is IBS?
IBS is a problem with how the bowel works. There is otherwise nothing wrong with the bowel. This common condition impacts a person’s digestive system resulting in symptoms like cramps, tummy pain, bloating, excess gas and either diarrhoea or constipation. Everyone experiences IBS differently and symptoms vary depending on the person.
Who is likely to experience IBS?
While anyone can have IBS, it most commonly occurs in women and starts in the late teen to early adult years. People with a family history of IBS are often more likely to get it too. A small number of people may experience more severe symptoms of IBS which are typically treated using medication and counselling.
What triggers IBS?
For many people, IBS is triggered by food, stress or hormones. Everyone’s triggers are different so being able to identify yours can really help. If you’re not sure where to start, keeping a symptom journal can help. The next time your IBS flares up write down your symptoms, your mood and what you ate that day. Over time this will help you narrow down what triggers your IBS so that you can better manage it.
How to manage IBS?
Stress reduction can do wonders for people with IBS, especially if stress is one of your major triggers. Make sure you take time to relax. Consider giving meditation or mindfulness a go, they’re both great for managing and reducing stress.
Some people with IBS find it helpful to follow a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are carbohydrate which some people may have difficulty digesting, causing irritation in their bowels. High-FODMAP foods worth avoiding include onions, garlic, high-fructose fruits such as apples, avocados and dried fruits, sausages, wheat and dairy products. Instead opt for low-FODMAP foods like fresh fish, unprocessed meats like beef & chicken, fruits like oranges and pineapples, vegetables like carrots, courgette, lettuce and cucumber and herbs like basil.
If you’re concerned about IBS talk to your GP. They’ll be able to help you identify your triggers and find the best ways of managing it.
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