What is it?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and / or constipation.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of IBS are usually worse after eating and tend to come and go in episodes. Most people have flare-ups of symptoms that last a few days. After this time, the symptoms usually improve, but may not disappear completely. In some people, the symptoms seem to be triggered by something they have had to eat or drink.

Main symptoms

The most common symptoms of IBS are:

  • Abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping, which may be relieved by having a poo.
  • A change in your bowel habits – such as diarrhoea, constipation, or sometimes both.
  • Bloating and swelling of your stomach.
  • Excessive wind (flatulence).
  • Occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet.
  • A feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet.
  • Passing mucus from your bottom.

Additional problems

In addition to the main symptoms described above, some people with IBS experience a number of other problems. These can include:

  • A lack of energy (lethargy).
  • Feeling sick.
  • Backache.
  • Bladder problems (such as needing to wake up to urinate at night, experiencing an urgent need to urinate and difficulty fully emptying the bladder).
  • Pain during sex (dyspareunia).
  • Incontinence.

The symptoms of IBS can also have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life and can have a deep psychological impact. As a result, many people with the condition have feelings of depression and anxiety.

What to expect?

If you are diagnosed with Irritable bowel syndrome the following may help to relieve symptoms:

  • Try to reduce stress. Some people find yoga, meditation, or exercise useful ways to reduce stress. Try to find a way that works for you.
  • Stick to a healthy diet with plenty of fibers. Avoid food that increases your symptoms.
  • Try to stay active and exercise regularly.
  • Peppermint may have antispasmodic properties that could help to relax the intestinal muscles. Before you try using peppermint however, make sure you consult your doctor because of possible drug interactions.

Think you might have Irritable bowel syndrome?

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Think you might have Irritable bowel syndrome?