Having dealt with my IBS for around 10 years now, I feel like some kind of expert in explaining what it is, the grisly symptoms and how to attempt to manage it. So here it goes, everything you wanted to know about having IBS but didn’t want to ask.
What is IBS?
Let’s start with the basics. IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, sexy right, and according to the NHS is a common, long-term condition of the digestive system. It affects 1 in 5 and usually more women than men.
What causes it?
The great news here is that the cause of IBS is unknown, but doctors believe it’s related to increased sensitivity of the gut and problems digesting food. When you eat your body moves food through your digestive system by squeezing and relaxing the muscles of the intestines. In IBS sufferers this process is altered, resulting in the food moving either too quickly or too slowly through the digestive system. If it moves too quickly, it can result in diarrhoea as your digestive system doesn’t have enough time to absorb water. If it moves too slowly it causes constipation, as too much water has been absorbed.
Stress is a big factor and definitely makes my symptoms worse, the same as specific types of food. For me that includes dairy, wheat, gluten, anything too acidic like onions, peppers and tomatoes and heavily processed fatty foods.
What symptoms do you get?
This is a long old list, so here it goes.
- Bloating and swelling of the stomach – I regularly look 6 months pregnant
- Frequent and loose bowel movements
- Tiredness and lethargy
- Mouth ulcers
How long do the symptoms last?
As long as it wants, that’s the problem. IBS is not bound by time, it usually starts and then manifests into various symptoms at the same time. A couple of weekends ago I had cramps and bloating from the Friday to Monday, which I couldn’t shift, no matter how many peppermint teas I drank.
How do you manage it?
If I knew the secret to this I’d be a bloody rich lady. I’ve tried everything from medication to the FODMAP diet and now am successfully making my own probiotics, which are making a massive difference.
I swear by the following:
- Eating regularly
- Drinking plenty of fluid – both water and herbal tea
- Sticking to the low FODMAP diet
- Reducing the amount of alcohol and fizzy drinks
- Avoiding sorbitol – found in chewing-gum
- Relaxation techniques, from a warm bath to meditation and yoga
- Daily probiotics
Keep your eyes peeled for my new series where I ask fellow IBS sufferers to share their story and how they try to control their symptoms.
Fact: I typed digestive symptom 4 times in this post. I really though it would be more.
Any questions still unanswered, drop them in the comments below.
Read More About My Struggle with IBS:
How to Make the Best Tasting Water Kefir Probiotic