Let's Talk About: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - En Route
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Let’s Talk About: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Cute crops and tight tanks are just a few items of clothing those who suffer from perpetual bloating would never dream of wearing, let alone be caught dead walking the streets in. In a world that seems hesitant about allowing us to accept our body image where flat tummies and six-packs are desired – bloat suffers know one thing is for certain, the morning confidence of a flat stomach when you haven’t consumed a thing is one we wish we could sustain all day.

Gut health has blown up on my Tik Tok recently and bloating is one of the many symptoms we can experience if we suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 3 in 10 Australians develop it at some point in their life but did you know it’s a disorder between the interaction of our gut and our brain causing abdominal pain, wind, diarrhoea and constipation.

To help us understand a little more about IBS, Dr Sarah Brewer, Doctor and Nutritionist and Chelsea McCallum accredited practising dietitian, specialising in IBS and gut-related issues talk us through everything we need to know to understand IBS.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

 

“IBS is the most common problem that affects the gut with around 3 in 10 Australians developing it at some point in their life. Many think of it as a condition that only affects the gut, but it’s actually to do with an interaction between the gut and the brain which goes wrong. If you think about it, the gut is constantly moving and constricting and pushing food down – and normally the brain filters out all those signals so you don’t feel them. But it’s thought that in people with IBS, this mechanism doesn’t work properly, which results in them picking up the constrictions of the gut and perceiving them as pain,” Dr Sarah Brewer tells us.

IBS is the most common problem that affects the gut with around 3 in 10 Australians developing it at some point in their life

Why do we get IBS?

 

Chelsea explains that the causes of IBS aren’t completely understood, leaving many potential factors that can play a part in contribution.

Genetics, food intolerance, an infection can leade to IBS triggered by taking antibiotics which disturb the balance in the bowel. Dr Sarah adds, “A number of people who first develop IBS do so within three months of having food poisoning.”

The Symptoms

 

Most common:

  • cramping
  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • gas
  • diarrhoea
  • constipation

Symptoms can be anything associated with our bowel movements, making it difficult to diagnose which leads doctors to investigate further to rule out any other conditions like food intolerances, Crohn’s Disease, colon cancer, ulcerative colitis and coeliac disease.

While we wish there was a particular test we can take to specifically diagnose IBS, some red flags to look out for are weight loss, blood, fat or mucus in stool – basically, anything that has to do with our bowels can indicate other underlying conditions. It’s highly advised to seek medical advice to rule out any other conditions as it’s not something that can be diagnosed ourselves. There’s a set of criteria doctors use, known as the ROME criteria to assess your symptoms.

Can IBS lead to other digestive issues if not attended to?

 

Unmanaged or prolonged periods of IBS doesn’t predispose you to additional digestive issues or long-term damage to the gut – but will absolutely affect your quality of life, and increases stress making your symptoms worse.

 

 

Are we genetically prone to IBS?

 

No. “But if your parents have IBS, there may be a chance you have inherited the same dysfunctional nerve system that connects the gut and the brain,” Dr Sarah explains.

How can we eliminate or reduce the symptoms of IBS?

 

While there is no cure, Chelsea explains that there are three main therapies that can be implemented for IBS management: diet, pharmacological, and psychological.

  • Invest in an effective over-the-counter solution – Dr Sarah suggests “SilicolGel treats both the most common IBS symptoms and relief from heartburn, reflux and vomiting.”
  • Dietary options include the low FODMAP diet – reducing non-FODMAP gut irritants such as garlic and onion and manipulating fibre intake.
  • Take a good quality probioticProbiotics do wonders for the gut and will provide overall benefits to your digestive health.
  • Stress Management – Stress can be one of the major triggers for IBS flare-ups, so it’s important to limit stress where possible.
  • Drink plenty of water and get enough sleep

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