What is it?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of IBS are usually worse after eating and tend to come and go in episodes. Most people have flare-ups of symptoms that last a few days. After this time, the symptoms usually improve, but may not disappear completely. In some people, the symptoms seem to be triggered by something they have had to eat or drink. ###Main symptoms The most common symptoms of IBS are: * abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo * a change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both * bloating and swelling of your stomach * excessive wind (flatulence) * occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet * a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet * passing mucus from your bottom ###Additional problems In addition to the main symptoms described above, some people with IBS experience a number of other problems. These can include: * a lack of energy (lethargy) * feeling sick * backache * bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate and difficulty fully emptying the bladder) * pain during sex (dyspareunia) * incontinence The symptoms of IBS can also have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life and can have a deep psychological impact. As a result, many people with the condition have feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Peppermint has antispasmodic properties that could help to relax the intestinal muscles, but most studies so far have been inconclusive. Before you try using peppermint however, make sure you consult your doctor because of possible drug interactions. Keep in mind that peppermint can also cause heartburn.
- Increase your intake of dietary fiber, by consuming fiber rich fruits.
- Try to maintain regular habits and instead of large servings, eat frequent but small meals.
- Foods and beverages that stimulate the intestines could worsen your condition, so it may be advisable to avoid consuming colas, caffeine and tea.
- Foods like wheat, barley, rye, dairy products, and chocolates are often found to trigger IBS, so you should be cautious.
- Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflowers and cabbage, and pulses can pose a problem for individuals who suffer from bloating and gas.
- It is advisable to avoid consumption of alcohol.
- Avoid consuming any laxatives for constipation, as this could create a dependency, which will only worsen the problem.
Things to watch out for
IBS is often managed by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. GP should be contacted for a blood test to rule out any other serious conditions.