Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the name for a group of symptoms that occur in your gastrointestinal system. These symptoms are collectively named a functional gut disorder as there is no underlying pathology such as inflammation, ulcers, issues in tissue lining or identifiable physical features, however the function of the gut can be disturbed.

A diagnosis of IBS will be made by a General Practitioner (GP) or specialist such as a Gastroenterologist, once a comprehensive medical history has been taken, including the type and duration of symptoms present.

The cause of IBS is mostly unknown, although dietary factors, stress, genetics, medications such as antibiotics, dysbiosis, bacterial overgrowth and viruses have all been known to play a part. More and more evidence is emerging on the link between the gut and brain, known as the gut-brain-axis. It is also known that some individuals simply are more sensitive than others. The enteric nervous system runs the entire length of the digestive system, so if one is out, the other will be triggered.

IBS affects one in five people; it is increasingly common.

Symptoms of IBS

Reported symptoms can include:

  • bloating (distention)
  • trapped wind
  • excess gas
  • abdominal pain cramping
  • nausea
  • reglux
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • combination of both constipation and diarrhoea
  • fatigue
  • reduced quality of life

Classification of IBS

IBS is classified using the ‘Rome 111’ classification, which determines that someone can be diagnosed with IBS if they have suffered symptoms of a functional gut disorder for at least six months. They must also have experienced abdominal pain or distension associated with altered bowel habits. These time limits are used to differentiate between a one off gut incident such as a gastrointestinal bug versus an ongoing issue.

Getting an IBS diagnosis

A descriptive diagnostic pathway for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
That Healthy Girl: IBS Diagnostic Pathway

 

Getting help for IBS

If you have been given a diagnosis of IBS it can seem as if there is no answer or help for your condition. Although IBS is different for everybody, there is help to be found. Trust me, I have been there too, this is why I followed my gut (pun intended) and became a Dietitian.

Knowing what your dietary triggers are will dramatically help in the management of this frustrating condition. Keeping track of food intake and symptoms can be a great place to start. Download my free IBS Symptom Tracker.