The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (I.B.S.)


This is an extremely common condition which everyone suffers from time to time. It consists of any combination of the following symptoms:


1.Pain: Usually this is felt in the tummy region, but sometimes it may be in the lower chest or back. It can vary enormously from a minor discomfort to an unbearable pain, but no matter how severe, it does not mean that you have a serious or dangerous condition.


2. Change in Bowel Habits: constipation is more common than diarrhea, but any change in bowel habit can occur.


3. Bloating: where the tummy feels bloated, swollen, distended or 'full of wind'; women often say they feel 'as if I were pregnant'


4. Tiredness, fatigue, generally unwell. Patients can often become convinced that they have a serious illness such as cancer.


5. Other symptoms: urinary symptoms - very much like "cystitis", pains in the pelvis, pains on intercourse and backache are the most common here.


Bleeding from the back passage and/or weight loss are not symptoms of I.B.S.; these need to be checked by your doctor.


How can I help myself?


1. Dietary Factors. Although there is no specific diet to help Irritable Bowel Syndrome, many patients discover that certain foods do trigger off the symptoms, and you may well wish to keep a dietary record to find out which foods affect you. Generally speaking, a high fibre diet is helpful, though when you begin to increase the fibre in your diet, your symptoms may worsen! Stick with it, as once your bowel has adjusted, your symptoms are very likely to improve.


2. A Healthy Lifestyle: in particular exercise can help the bowel function better; junk food, excess alcohol, cigarettes, too much coffee etc are all bad news.


3. Stress can make the bowels misbehave as most of us know from examination time, public speaking, interviews etc. Finding better ways of coping with stress in our daily lives can dramatically impact on the symptoms of I.B.S.





How can Medical Treatment Help?


1. Medical Fibre -  fibre in the form of a powder to mix with water or as a liquid drink is often very helpful.


2. Medication - usually in the form of tablets to prevent painful spasms in the intestine.


3. Psychological Treatments - especially antidepressants where appropriate, though tranquillisers and other techniques such as hypnosis and acupuncture sometimes have a role.





No-one has ever died from I.B.S.; it is a nuisance, but not truly "serious".


The treatments are effective, but may take a little time to take effect.


There is great variation from person to person between symptoms and what works best for them


Good Luck!


Bernard Shevlin

Tean, Staffs. England