This month is IBS Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It's estimated that IBS affects anywhere between nine and 23 per cent of the global population, although many don't realise that they have the condition. Here, we will talk you through some of the facts about IBS, how to spot it and what you can do about it.
Irritable bowel syndrome (commonly referred to as IBS) is a condition in which abdominal pain is associated with a range of symptoms, such as diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. There is no test to confirm a case of IBS, but rather it is diagnosed by the recurrence of the common symptoms over an extended period of time.
IBS is a long-term and unpredictable condition – what triggers it for an individual can vary from day to day. Common triggers include certain foods, stress and anxiety.
As mentioned above, the difficulty with IBS is that there is no test to diagnose it. However, if you suffer from intermittent abdominal discomfort as well as diarrhoea, constipation or bloating over an extended period of time, it's likely that you could have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You may only have one of these symptoms or you may alternate between them – both are common with IBS.
If you think you might have IBS, the first step is to speak to your doctor. In the first instance, they will be able to carry out tests to rule out other common allergies and conditions.
You might find it useful to keep a diary each day of what you eat, your emotional state and your bowel movements. You can then take this to your doctor and work together to find out what triggers your IBS. They may suggest that you try excluding certain foods, take medication or try stress-reducing exercises; IBS can't be 'cured' as such, but there are lots of things you can do to keep it under control.