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Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Imagine if your stomach sometimes felt upset, bloated, or acted strangely. That’s what happens to some people with a condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. It affects about 3 out of every 10 people, and it’s more common in girls than boys.

Having IBS can make your tummy feel not-so-good, but the tricky part is that tests like blood tests and scans won’t show anything wrong. IBS is different from other tummy problems like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

What Are the Symptoms of IBS?

Here are some things that might happen if you have IBS:

  1. Tummy Troubles: You might have tummy pain or feel uncomfortable.
  2. Feeling Puffy: Your stomach might get swollen and feel gassy.
  3. Bathroom Blues: You could have ongoing diarrhea, constipation, or switch between the two.
  4. Feeling ‘Not Done’: Sometimes, it might feel like you need to go to the bathroom more, even after you’ve already gone.
  5. Nausea: You might feel queasy.

Usually, if you pass gas or go to the bathroom, the pain might get better.

What Causes IBS?

We’re not exactly sure what causes IBS, but a few things can make it worse. It could be because of what you eat, stress, an infection you had before, or even some medicines you took. And here’s the tricky part: the foods that make one person with IBS feel worse might be totally fine for someone else with IBS.

When Should I See a Doctor?

It’s important to see a doctor if you have symptoms. They need to make sure it’s not something else causing your tummy troubles. Go to the doctor if:

  • You’re worried about your symptoms, or they’re really bad.
  • You see blood in your poop.
  • You’re losing weight without trying.
  • You have a fever or really bad diarrhea.

IBS doesn’t usually cause these things, so the doctor needs to check if it’s something else.

How is IBS Diagnosed?

To figure out if you have IBS, the doctor first checks if it could be something else by doing some tests. They might look for infections, inflammatory bowel diseases, allergies, or even cancer. These tests might include blood tests, poop tests, or a closer look inside your tummy with special tools.

If all those tests come back normal, and you’ve been having IBS symptoms for at least 6 months, then the doctor might say you have IBS.

How is IBS Treated?

There are a number of ways to treat IBS, and it’s a bit like trying different keys to see which one unlocks the door to feeling better. Here are some options:

  1. Diet and Lifestyle Changes: Sometimes, changing what you eat and how you live can help a lot. A dietitian can help you figure out what foods might be causing your symptoms and help you make a plan to feel better.
  2. Medicines: There are medicines that can help with IBS. Some can calm your tummy, while others can help with constipation or diarrhea. Even anti-depressants can sometimes help.
  3. Herbal Remedies: Things like peppermint oil might ease your symptoms.
  4. Probiotics: These are like the good guys for your tummy. They can help some people feel better.
  5. Exercise and Mind Tricks: Yoga, relaxation, or even talking to a therapist can make your tummy feel better.

How Can I Make My IBS Symptoms Less Annoying?

You can try these tricks to help with your IBS:

  • Fibre Friends: Foods with fibre can help, but don’t go overboard.
  • Watch What You Eat: Some foods and drinks can make IBS worse, like onions, cabbage, milk, and alcohol. Artificial sweeteners can be sneaky troublemakers, too.
  • Low FODMAP Diet: Sometimes, a special diet called low FODMAP can help. It’s all about avoiding certain types of sugars that can bug your tummy.

Everyone’s different, so what works for one person with IBS might not work for another. A dietitian can be a big help in figuring out your own unique plan.

What if IBS Gets Complicated?

Usually, IBS is a mild thing that you can manage with these tricks. But sometimes, it can make you feel really down or anxious. Some folks even get other issues like migraines, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

If IBS is making you feel not-so-great emotionally, there are people who specialize in helping with that. Talk to your regular GP about it.

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