What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome? 

IBS and its symptoms

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a frustrating, long-term or chronic condition that affects the functioning of the bowel. Around one in five people suffer from IBS and it's unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation. Some symptoms that often accompany IBS are bloating and excessive gas. Although IBS can cause these symptoms, it isn't actually causing physical damage to the gut. It’s one of the most common problems of the digestive system but because of its symptomatic nature, it can be difficult to treat and manage.

People with IBS have sensitive bowels that are easily ‘upset’. The exact cause is unknown, but environmental factors such as changes of routine, emotional stress, anxiety, infection and diet can trigger a flare-up. Fortunately, IBS doesn’t cause lasting damage and doesn’t contribute to the development of other serious bowel conditions, such as cancer or colitis, but can have a terrible impact on your quality of life. IBS is twice as common in women as it is in men and often develops in the late teens or early 20s. Having a close relative with IBS may slightly increase your chance of having it.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

Some of the more common signs of IBS include:

- abdominal pain that can be relieved by passing wind or going to the toilet

- a feeling that the bowels aren't completely emptied after a bowel movement

- diarrhoea and constipation

Often, one IBS symptom will occur more often than the others – either constipation (IBS-C), chronic diarrhoea (IBS-D) or alternating between the two (IBS-A). It’s important not to self-diagnose IBS because a number of other conditions, such as coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and endometriosis, have similar symptoms. So to exclude other possible diagnoses, see a medical professional for a diagnosis.

Treatment for IBS

Unfortunately IBS cannot be cured with medication or special diets, instead, it must be managed. There are various ways to manage IBS including diet change, medication and therapeutics.

Recently, a team from Monash University, led by Dr. Simone Peters, found that gut-directed hypnotherapy reduced the symptoms of IBS in 3 out of 4 patients by a staggering 71%! This is comparable to the low FODMAP diet (a highly effective elimination diet), except you won't need to change your diet to see the effects. The study also found that using a low FODMAP diet along with gut-directed hypnotherapy didn't actually increase the levels of symptom reduction. You can find Dr. Peter's gut-directed hypnotherapy program in the Mindset app.

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