IBS Awareness Month is here: Do You Have the Stomach for the Fight?
IBS Awareness Month occurs each April and this provides an ideal opportunity for attention to be focused on important health messages about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnosis, treatment options, and quality of life issues when managing the condition. For those suffering with IBS, rest assure that there are millions of others in the same boat. IBS is a very common disorder, with worldwide a prevalence estimated at around 9% to 23%. Despite this, there are undoubtedly millions of people around the world who are suffering in silence, without a proper diagnosis, and maybe even unaware that their symptoms indicate a medically recognised disorder. IBS is a long-term gut disorder in which abdominal pain or discomfort is experienced, usually sporadically, together with erratic bowel habits. This comes in the form of diarrhoea, constipation, or alternating bouts of both. The condition may also be referred to by one of many more outdated terms, such as irritable colon, mucous colitis, nervous stomach, spastic colitis or spastic colon. Other symptoms may also be present, including: backache, belching, bladder problems, headache, heartburn, loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, and quickly feeling full after eating. Over 10% of the population suffer with IBS and this percentage could increase in the future if the nation’s stress levels rise – stress is a primary cause of IBS. Other factors that can lead to IBS can include a combination of a number of issues such as: inflammation of your bowel (i.e. after an infection like gastroenteritis), dietary factors (foods high in carbohydrates, foods high in fat, spicy foods, alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeinated drinks are culprits), genetics (family members may have also had IBS), or mental issues such as depression. Unfortunately, there is no definitive treatment or cure for IBS and no ‘one size fits all’ remedy to rectify the problem, but there are certain IBS treatments that can ease symptoms for some sufferers, hopefully helping them to lead a more normal day-to-day life. These include prescription medications such as Constella, Mebeverine, Xifaxanta, and over-the-counter products such as Buscopan IBS Relief and Colpermin. The prescription medications may only be obtained by completing an online consultation with one of the Medical Specialists® Pharmacy GMC-registered doctors, or by sending a private prescription to Medical Specialists®. There are also numerous other dietary and lifestyle choices that those with IBS may find beneficial in helping symptoms subside. These include: . Drink around eight cups of fluid each day – preferably water. Limit caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. . For those finding it impossible to give up tea and coffee, restrict the intake to three cups per day at the most. . Have regular meals, evenly spaced out, and pacing yourself whilst eating. Also, do not go long periods without eating anything. . Those with IBS that often flares-up during times of stress, depression, or anxiety, are advised to try relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or meditation, in addition to more physically-involved activities such as pilates or yoga. . Consume no more than three portions of fruit per day. . Those suffering with diarrhoea should avoid artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol. This is contained in some sugar-free sweets, chewing gum, and certain diabetic and slimming products. . Vigorous exercise, for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. This should be done at least three times each week. It is important for patients with IBS to discuss with their GP which exercise is most suited for them. Gut problems are one of the most common types of disorders seen by doctors and are certainly nothing to be ashamed about. If anyone is experiencing any kind of stomach complaint, they should consult a GP immediately. The GP will ask detailed questions about lifestyle, diet, etc. before making a formal diagnosis and discussing how to go forward with the condition, or make a referral for further detailed scans if necessary, to see if there is an underlying problem.