Irritable Bowel Syndrome - What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - What is IBS?

Welcome to IBS awareness month! Throughout the month of April we’ll be discussing all things IBS, shame-free, to spread awareness around this very real condition that not many truly understand. Come along for the ride and keep reading as we focus in on IBS, the causes, and treatment options available.

FIRSTLY, WHAT IS IBS?

First and foremost, IBS is a very real condition that often gets dismissed or misunderstood by friends, family and healthcare professionals. If you’re an IBS sufferer, just know that you’re not alone on this journey. In fact, 15% of the entire adult population worldwide suffer from IBS.

So, what is it exactly? IBS is a condition that affects the large intestine and symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. Many of these symptoms can be misunderstood or misdiagnosed, which leaves many sufferers undiagnosed and unaware of how they can better manage this condition.

Unfortunately, IBS is quite complex and researchers haven’t been able to directly pin-point one main cause of the condition but the latest research shows that it is a disorder of the gut-brain axis. Simply put, this means that communication between the gut and brain is out of whack, creating an overly-sensitive intestine, leading to exaggerated responses to fluctuating hormones, food, drinks, and medication.

3 TYPES OF IBS

IBS with Constipation (IBS-C):

is characterised by hard, dry stools and constipation more than 25% of the time.

IBS with Diarrhea (IBS-D):

is characterised by loose, watery stools and diarrhoea more than 25% of the time.

Mixed IBS (IBS-M):

This type has features of both IBS-C and IBS-D. People who experience this type of IBS have both hard and lumpy bowel movements and loose and watery movements on the same day.

WHAT CAUSES IBS?

There is no single cause of IBS; rather, there are factors that increase your risk. These risks include gut infections, food poisoning, travellers' diarrhoea, anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. These things can make your gut more compromised and sensitive and therefore more likely to develop IBS symptoms. A recent study done in 2021 showed that long term or recurrent courses of antibiotics as children may also play a factor in developing IBS as an adult, as well as those who have had appendix or gallbladder removal being more at risk as well.

SYMPTOMS OF IBS

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Gassiness
  • Diarrhoea/constipation or both
  • Changes in bowel movements and how often they occur

Unfortunately, symptoms can flare up at any point, as IBS is a very unpredictable condition. IBS symptoms can worsen when sleep is poor, stress is high, and junk food & alcohol is in excess.

THE STATS

Unfortunately, three out of every ten people will suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Australia and one out of ten people worldwide. Furthermore, women are more likely to suffer from IBS than men. Research shows that the reason for this is due to different brain chemistry and fluctuating hormones.

TREATMENT FOR IBS

There is no known cure for IBS; however, there are treatments that can help lessen the symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for IBS, as the condition can vary from person to person. However, a few treatment options are available, including dietary & lifestyle changes, herbal vitamins & supplements, and probiotics.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please consult your doctor. It is important to get a diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible to alleviate discomfort and improve quality of life. If you are struggling to receive a diagnosis from your GP but you believe you have symptoms of IBS then it may be worth seeking advice from a naturopath or nutritionist.

If you know a friend or family member with IBS, please spread the word! This condition can affect anyone at any point in their life, so it’s super important to share this knowledge and education with not only those who need it now, but those who may need it in the future as well.

For more information and resources to raise the visibility of IBS in your community, please visit the website: https://aboutibs.org