Gut health & Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a medical term used to describe a collection of gut symptoms not explained by any other disease. A lot of women with IBS struggle with how unpredictable their symptoms can be. IBS symptoms can vary from person to person and also in the same person at different times, especially in relation to stress, travel and menstrual cycle. People usually suffer with diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping and wind.
There are different types of IBS which are classified according to the main symptom. These include:
- IBS-D (where diarrhoea is the main symptom)
- IBS-C (where constipation is the main symptom)
- IBS-M (where symptoms are mixed) and
- IBS-U (unspecified).
There is no test to diagnose IBS and it is diagnosed when other conditions are ruled out. Symptoms can be very similar to other gastrointestinal (gut) conditions and so before a diagnosis of IBS is confirmed, it is important that other gastrointestinal conditions such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as other bowel and gynaecological conditions, are first ruled out. This is because if you have one of these conditions, you will need treatment for them to prevent your health deteriorating. Mistakenly thinking that it is IBS can lead to such conditions progressing.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but it is thought to be related to a combination of factors, including trauma in childhood, stress, diet, and imbalance in gut microbiota. While there is no cure for IBS, there are several dietary and lifestyle strategies that can help to manage the symptoms. Research shows that certain dietary strategies can help up to 70% of people with IBS, and many people find that a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes is the most effective approach. Some helpful dietary strategies for managing IBS include avoiding trigger foods, eating regular meals, and manipulating fibre intake. In addition, stress management techniques such as relaxation therapy can also be beneficial.