Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition which requires good self-management and making lifestyle changes in order to control it. There are many aspects of IBS to consider, including what type you have, how to go about getting it diagnosed and what lifestyle changes you may need to make in order to make your gut happy again. In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know about this illness.
What is IBS?
IBS or irritable bowel syndrome can also go by its other names of irritable colon or mucous colitis, however, it should not be confused with inflammatory bowel disease. IBS is a group of intestinal symptoms which all occur in sync and at the same time. The severity of this illness can differ from person to person, including how often they feel symptoms, what can cause an IBS attack and what they can do to prevent them in the future.
In addition, there are four different types of irritable bowel syndrome. There is IBS-C, which stands for irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. IBS-D, which typically has symptoms of diarrhea. IBS-M consists of mixed symptoms, usually alternating between both diarrhea and constipation. Finally, the fourth type of IBS is IBS-U, which is a subtype. The symptoms of these attacks can vary but individuals suffering with this type of IBS will still have the common symptoms when it comes to their disrupted and potentially painful digestive system.
Common IBS symptoms
As stated above, symptoms of IBS can differ, with both the longevity and severity being very individualized per person. However, some of the most common symptoms include
- Pain in the stomach or abdomen
- Bloating and gas
It is not unheard of that many people with IBS, which have multiple of these symptoms at once and even suffer from both constipation and diarrhea at any given time. Unfortunately, symptoms of IBS can be persistent and can sometimes leave, then come right back.
Is IBS Different In Men and Women?
With IBS being different from person-to-person, does it affect men and women differently? The answer is yes. Women tend to have more symptoms during their month cycle. This is because you produce more progesterone, which is a muscle relaxant. Your body’s muscles contract to move waste through your gut and the relaxing effect of the progesterone can make it even harder to go to the bathroom.
In addition, menopausal women may have fewer or more symptons of IBS. The effect of menopause on people with IBS is definitely there, but it effects people differently. During menopause, there is a leveling off of your sex horomones, better known as estrogen and progestrone. The levels of these sex horomes have a well established relationship with your digestive system and therefore, the change could impact your gut.
Symptoms in men differ slightly to women. Firstly, the symptoms that appear in men with IBS are the same cramping, uncomfortable bowel movements, diarrhea and constipation which is prevalent in all cases. However, a lot less men will report these symptoms and seek treatment. More women are actively diagnosed with this illness over men.
Why Getting Diagnosed is Important
To get officially diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome your doctor or GP will review all of your symptoms first, discussing what the possible causes could be and maybe even suggesting an elimination diet. Then, they will ask you questions about your medical and family history as it’s possible that IBS can be a genetic illness which can travel through families. Finally, they could perform a physical exam.
It’s important to get diagnosed professionally as what you’re suffering from could not be IBS, but another gut disorder or even Crohn’s Disease. Making the distinction between what you have and what you could have is important when it comes to how you can treat the illness. Your doctor may also be able to give you some insight into what type of IBS you are suffering from, again allowing you more opportunity to understand your stomach further and give it the help it needs.
Is There Treatment For IBS?
Currently, there is no direct treatment for IBS. There are some key lifestyle changes you can make which will help you manage this illness. Such as eating more fiber, avoiding any gluten and following a special eating plan called the low FODMAP diet. A low FODMAP diet is usually suggested by medical professionals as IBS can be directly worsened by food choices. Your normal meals can be swapped out for other alternatives which won’t anger your stomach and cause your symptoms to flare up. If you need low FODMAP recipe inspiration, then check out our recipe page! We’ve got plenty of mains, lunches and breakfast options which will have your gut feeling happy again.
More lifestyle changes that could be suggested by your doctor could be increasing your physical activity, reducing anything that is causing you direct stress and getting a recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. On top of these changes, If your case is very severe, then your medical professional may recommend medication, which can help you manage your IBS more controllably throughout the day.