Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms are a result of the interaction between the food we eat and the resident bacterial community in our large bowel. Frequently, there is associated hypersensitivity of the colonic wall to the ‘stretching and distension’ that normally occur during food digestion resulting in pain and discomfort.
The cause behind the development of IBS is not clear but may occur after a severe gastro-intestinal infection, the use of antibiotics, or prolonged stress.
The symptoms of IBS may range from mild to severe and may occur at least 3 days a week for 3 or more continuous months. The most common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain/ discomfort
- Gas and bloating – usually worse as the day goes on
- Alternating bowel habits – from constipation to loose bowels
- Frequently, symptoms are worse when one is under external stress or pressure
- Frequently, symptoms are better after a bowel movement
- Certain food triggers may be obvious in some people
Diagnosis of IBS is based on the symptoms and is a diagnosis of exclusion. Tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms may include:
- Blood tests to identify celiac disease
- Stool sample examination to detect infections
- Blood tests to look for anaemia (iron, folate, or B12 deficiency)
In some cases, a gastroscopy and a colonoscopy may be ordered where a flexible tube with a camera is used to examine the stomach and small bowels as well as the colon.
Treatment is directed towards the specific symptoms that you may experience and is generally a conservative approach.
- Exercise, timely sleeping habits, and a balanced diet
- Stress, anxiety, and depression management
- Medication may be prescribed for constipation, diarrhoea, pain and/or infection