Let’s Talk Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS affects around one in seven New Zealanders
It’s likely that you have friends or family that suffer from this frustrating and embarrassing condition. Some people may find it shameful. It’s definitely not a popular topic around the dinner table since bowel motions are not something that most people are comfortable to talk about. Around 50% of people don’t seek help.
That’s why it’s so important to bring awareness to the community about this condition. Let’s blast through the taboo and get a real understanding of what it’s like to deal with IBS on a daily basis.
Common symptoms of IBS include:
- Stomach cramps
- Diarrhoea/constipation or both
- Mucous in the stool
Symptoms will be highly individual and can change over time.
I have had clients tell me that they have explosive poos and it’s so embarrassing they are frightened to go out in case they get caught short. Others tell me that they stop eating at times, to avoid any unwanted side effects. Some stop traveling because it’s too stressful, they don’t trust their guts to behave.
The challenge around IBS, is that it’s not well understood. It’s more than likely a combination of a family history of IBS, stress, over sensitive nerves in the gut and how quickly or slowly your food passes through your gut.
When you finally get diagnosed you will be told that there is no medical cure. You will need to adjust your lifestyle habits and manage symptoms as best you can. Now that may be disheartening news for some.
As a nutritionist who is interested in uncovering the root cause of why people suffer from IBS, I try and decipher the puzzle. I would be looking at some of the common triggers. These include leaky gut, food sensitivities, small intestinal bowel overgrowth, yeast overgrowth, parasites, stress and/or nutritional deficiencies. Read my blog ‘Are you Suffering from IBS?’ for further information.
If you suspect you have IBS, it’s important to have testing to rule out any other conditions. Testing that I would consider in my practice are:
- Bloods test to check for coeliac disease, low iron, inflammation or any other abnormalities.
- A stool sample to rule out parasites, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), bacterial infection and yeast infections.
- A stress questionnaire to review how mood and emotional factors may be contributing to common IBS symptoms.
Another test that may be considered and would need to be requested through a medical doctor is a colonoscopy. This is a procedure that looks at the rectum and large bowel via a scope.
How can you manage your symptoms?
Book in a nutritional consultation to help you identify your triggers and to provide you with a personalised treatment plan with appropriate supplementation. It’s very difficult navigating this journey on your own.
What you can do right away:
- Improve your diet and start increasing fibre rich foods into your meal planning but do it slowly and make sure you drink sufficient water when making these nutritional changes.
- Keep a food diary to monitor which foods make your IBS symptoms worse.
- Go easy on the raw food, since this can cause bloating for some.
- Learn to belly breath and/or meditate, both are good ways to manage stress levels.
- Increase your exercise by doing stretching, walking, yoga or Qi Gong.
- Seek counselling if you need help in navigating life’s ups and downs.
IBS can be unpredictable and varies from person to person. It’s always important to identify the underlying causes and your unique IBS triggers. The good news is that you can manage it and live a full life without any uncomfortable symptoms or urgency to get to the toilet. Help me spread the word that IBS is a manageable condition and you can have your life back.