Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects approximately one in five Australians. It is usually characterised by unpleasant gut symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pains, cramping, diarrhoea or constipation (or both). Once correctly diagnosed by a doctor, it can be managed through various methods such as diet, fibre supplements, probiotics, stress management and in rarer occasions, medication including antibiotics. Fortunately, Irritable Bowel Syndrome does not cause changes in the lining of the gut and does not increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a sensitivity in the colon or large bowel. A number of things can trigger the sensitivity and active management can assist to reduce symptoms.
If you are diagnosed with IBS, diet modifications (Low FODAP diet) can help to ease symptoms. In some cases, medications prescribed by a Gastroenterologist can further assist. As symptoms can be triggered through stress, stress management can play an important role in reducing symptoms. The three main treatment methods are:
These may all be necessary and your doctor will guide you through what best suits your individual needs. Whilst the symptoms of IBS are common amongst suffers, treatment does vary.
One method which appears to achieve good results is the low FODMAP Diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are found in certain fruit and vegetables. As the body digests these foods, the sugars are poorly absorbed and therefore reach the bowel where they begin to ferment and produce gas and attract water, resulting in diarrhoea. A dietician can assist you with a plan to ensure you are getting all the necessary nutrients from your food, whilst managing your sensitivities towards these foods. Monash University also have an app which can assist you with the identification and management of these foods in your diet.
Stress comes in many forms; physical, emotional, mental. We all respond differently to stress, in some cases over exercising could be the cause of the stress affecting the gut, whilst for other lifestyle factors may be the trigger. As the gut produces the main stress hormone, cortisol, it is understandable that when the body is exposed to prolonged or as it is medically termed, chronic stress, the gut that will also suffer. It is important to understand our body and what we could be doing to reduce our stress, not only for our gut but for our overall wellbeing. If you feel stress may be affecting you, please consult your doctor or a mental health practitioner who specialises in this area.
As you can see the triggers can be varied and vast and some Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms are also common with other gut issues, which is why it is so important to receive proper diagnosis and get targeted treatment for you.
It is tempting to self-diagnose as there are many resources available today and whilst almost all literature is accessible, only a few are trained to identify the difference between various underlying triggers. The human digestive system is both wonderful and extremely complex. With the right diagnosis, targeted treatment can be administered and the majority of gut issues are manageable.
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