The NHS in Lincolnshire is backing IBS Awareness Month throughout April to help raise awareness of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which affects between 10% and 15% of the population at some point in their life. Yet many people remain undiagnosed and unaware that their symptoms indicate a medically recognized disorder.
The symptoms for the condition vary between individuals and may affect some people more severely than others – the main symptoms tend to be bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.
IBS is unpredictable and patients may go for many months without a flare up. The condition usually develops when patients are aged between 20 and 30 years of age and it affects twice as many women as men. Once diagnosed the condition is often life-long, although it may improve over several years. Suffering from the condition does not increase the chances of developing cancer or other bowel-related conditions.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown but is it thought to be related to increased sensitivity of the gut and problems digesting food. These problems may mean that patients are more sensitive to pain coming from their gut, which may result in constipation or diarrhoea.
If you experience bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation lasting more than two weeks, then do contact your GP practice so they can try to determine the cause.
Although there is no cure, patients may find it helps to identify and avoid foods that trigger symptoms, alter the amount of fibre in their diet, exercise regularly and reduce stress levels. In some cases of proven IBS there are medications available over the counter and on prescription which may give some relief to symptoms.
IBS does not pose a serious threat to your physical health and more information can be found at nhs.uk