Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is thought to affect as many as one in five of the population at any one time.
Its symptoms can vary from person to person, but typically one or more of the following symptoms may be experienced:
- Bloating (that may subside overnight, only to return the next day, and may occur after eating a meal)
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- may, or may not, be reduced by passing a stool
- may be specific to the lower right side or tucked up under the right ribs
- tucked up under left ribs, or if the pain is particularly bad it may move into the left armpit
- in women, left sided abdominal pain during sex
- or more generalised pain or cramping
- Painful swallowing
- Noisy gurgling stomach (may be loud enough to cause social embarrassment)
- Variable, erratic and unpredictable bowel habits
- Severe short stabbing pains in the rectum
- Passing urine more often
- Loss of appetite
- Depressive symptoms
- Anxiety and stress-related symptoms, which may interact with the gut symptoms
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition that is often hidden by the person experiencing its symptoms.
The media is certainly trying to move us towards a point where we are more comfortable talking about bloating, stomach cramps, constipation or diarrhoea, however, if you suffer from the condition, you will know how difficult it can be to talk about what can be very embarrassing symptoms.
- How do you tell the person interviewing you that you are suffering with severe flatulence?
- How do you explain to the coach driver that you need to stop for the toilet (again, having only been 5 minutes previously)?
- How do you leave in the middle the funeral to find a toilet?
- How do you tell your new partner that you dare not go on a trip in case you have a bout of IBS?
If you are someone who suffers with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you will also know only too well that the symptoms can seriously affect and limit your ability to enjoy life to the full.
It is the severity and frequency of symptoms that can be most troublesome and intrusive for sufferers and it is a condition that can be notoriously difficult to treat successfully.
Despite this, there are many cures and treatments recommended by the ‘experts’ and these include a large number of medications and herbal treatments (e.g. for diarrhoea, constipation, cramps and flatulence or bloating); dietary changes and restrictions; exercises – different types of exercise seem to be in vogue at different times (e.g. yoga is currently experiencing an elevated status as the exercise ‘cure’); and lifestyle changes or restrictions.
However, the disappointing reality for Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers is that of the many treatments listed above, which are variable and often disappointing in their treatment outcomes, all aim to treat the symptoms, rather than removing or resolving the root cause of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
This will mean that the person will always be likely to have a susceptibility to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the symptoms of which could be moderated with treatments, but that may always return.