Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) is one of the most common condition of the digestive system in the Western world. In the UK, it’s estimated to affect 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives, with women being more at risk than men.
It usually develops between the ages of 20-30, and there is no complete cure. If you have IBS, then it can have a serious impact on your life as it’s relatively unpredictable. But, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to help your symptoms. There are multiple over the counter medicines available to help treat symptoms, as well as lifestyle changes you can adopt to get some relief.
What causes IBS?
It’s not entirely clear what causes IBS. Some studies have shown that the gut of people with IBS tends to be more sensitive and reactive, which might be caused by a trauma or other upsetting events. These traumas – or risk factors – include an attack of gastroenteritis or following a course of powerful antibiotics.
What are the symptoms of IBS – How do I know I’ve got IBS?
Although ultimately symptoms differ from person to person, here’s a list of common symptoms:
- Severe stomach cramps
Other associated symptoms may include tiredness, nausea, backaches, headaches, anxiety, depression and heartburn. It can also include an urgent need to go to the toilet – even if you’ve just been.
There are multiple ways of finding out whether you have IBS. One of those is taking a self-test, such as the IBS screen self-testing kit. This test works by screening a stool sample for Calprotectin. This is a protein, which is only found in your waste. It only shows up if you have bowel inflammation (IBD) not caused by IBS. Using a test kit like this can prevent unnecessary (and invasive) diagnostic procedures, such as an endoscopy. But as always: if you’re in doubt, talk to your GP for advice.
What can I do to alleviate my symptoms?
Although it’s almost impossible to completely get rid of your IBS, you can gain some control over the condition.
- Change your food intake
One of the most common triggers for an IBS flare-up is food that doesn’t agree with you. Because the type of food that causes this is different from person to person, it is wise to maintain a food-diary so you can keep track of what causes issues. Common food-related triggers are garlic and onions, red wine and chocolate and wheat and dairy, but these differ from person to person. Depending on your current condition, you might want to increase or decrease your fibre intake. Taking certain good bacteria which improve your gut-health could also help, such as Kijimea IBS capsules. These types of capsules commonly contain billions of strands of gut bacteria, to help your bowels behave normally. As every IBS patient is different and responds to different treatments, these products do not work for everyone.
- Exercise regularly
This might be stating the obvious, but regular exercise can help immensely with not only keeping you regular but also reduce stress and help you sleep. Research shows that regular exercise helps improve colonic motility (the movement inside the colon). This helps reduce cramping and subsequent diarrhoea and constipation. Also: during exercise your brain releases endorphins, which are your body’s natural way of fighting stress and reducing pain. And don’t worry – there’s no need to dust off the dumbbells, a brisk walk or cycle ride will do just fine.
- Reduce Stress
Stress has an enormous effect on IBS, increasing stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Besides regular exercise, there are other ways of reducing the amount of stress in your life. Lifestyle changes in terms of job, surroundings and social life might help you regain control. Create a calming environment for yourself as much as you can. Suffering from IBS can feel embarrassing and isolating at times. If you’re afraid to leave the house in case you can’t find a toilet in time, the IBS Network’s ‘Can’t Wait Card’ and Radar Key might offer a solution. This key will give you quick access to the UK’s many public disability toilets.
- Change your food intake
At Chemist Direct we have a complete range of over the counter IBS products, so there’s surely one that will work for you. If you require prescription medications and have a doctor’s prescription, our sister company Pharmacy2U can help you by delivering your medication straight to your door!