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.
There is no one cause of IBS. However, it is known that diet, stress, genetics, medications and viruses all play a role. Certain antibiotics can cause an imbalance of bacteria and in some cases, bacteria can migrate to the small intestine.
Evidence is constantly emerging on the link between our gut and brain. This is, 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
- combination of both constipation and diarrhoea
- 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. Time limits are used to differentiate between a one off gut incident such as a gastrointestinal bug or an ongoing issue.
Getting an IBS diagnosis
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 available. 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.