IBS Explained

Type Irritable Bowel Syndrome into any search engine, and you’ll be inundated and likely overwhelmed with the tonnage of information! Everything from symptoms, treatments through to foods to avoid, links to other health conditions and offers to help set you free from the painful and often embarrassing symptoms.  

But what is IBS? What are the symptoms? And most importantly—what can be done to ease them?

The term Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) refers to a group of symptoms, which together form a syndrome. It is one of the most common disorders seen by gastroenterologists, with 10-20% of adults meeting the diagnostic criteria.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

While everybody’s different and may exhibit some or all of the symptoms, there’s a fundamental diagnostic criterion for IBS agreed on by the medical fraternity at large.
The diagnostic criteria used for IBS is,
  • Recurrent abdominal pain, on average at least one day per week for the previous three months.
  • Abdominal pain would be accompanied by, and associated with, one or more of the following symptoms,
    • Change in frequency of bowel movements.
    • Change in the stool form.
There are some supporting symptoms for IBS, including bloating, passing mucous, urgency in needing to visit the toilet and a feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowels.

What causes IBS?

The truth is that no one knows what causes that particular group of symptoms to manifest in the way that they do. The underlying causes may be different for each person. Stress and other psychological factors may be a trigger in one person, while another may have a particularly sensitive gut, prone to pain, known as visceral hypersensitivity. Others people may experience altered GI motility (a sluggish gut or the opposite), an imbalance in the microorganisms of the bowel and altered immune responses in the bowel.

If you think you have IBS, then just remember that the IBS symptoms are common to many other medical conditions and so the best option is to see your GP to rule out other possible medical causes.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, the first line of treatment is a referral to a dietitian for dietary management.
They will assess your diet for overall nutritional balance, fibre, bowel stimulants such as FODMAP’s and lifestyle factors. If factors like stress need to be addressed, they will refer you to the relevant health professional.

What are the treatments for IBS?

There are a number of recognised and clinically proven treatments for the symptomatic relief of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

They include:

  • Dietary Modification
  • Gut-Focussed Psychological therapy
  • Medication
  • Gut-Centred Hypnotherapy

Source: Dr. Rebecca Burgell, Dr. Peter Gibson, Dr. Jaci Barrett, Caroline Tuck, CK Yao

For more information on all things IBS and FODMAPs, or to book an appointment, contact our Accredited Practising Dietitians.