What is IBS? - IBS Awareness Month

13th April 2022

IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a condition that affects around one in ten people in the UK. Because of the topic, many people will not know important information regarding IBS, which is exactly why IBS Awareness Month is important.

Whilst IBS is not life-threatening, the symptoms and actual condition can be incredibly uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even debilitating. In this article, we will go in-depth about what IBS actually is in an attempt to end the stigma surrounding the subject. We will also mention if there are any ways that you can prevent IBS from affecting you, as well as what you can do in order to quickly treat and help your IBS. 

Since 2003, April has been designated as IBS Awareness Month, something that was started in Canada by the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. The official colour of IBS Awareness Month is periwinkle, a blue/violet colour, and a ribbon can be worn on the left lapel of a jacket should you wish. 

What is IBS?

IBS is a condition that affects the digestive system in a human. As mentioned, IBS will affect at least one in ten people in the UK. Despite the condition being so common, there is no actual known cause of IBS and it may be the case that there are many different factors that can lead to IBS. There is also no known cure for IBS, and the condition will often be with someone for their entire lifetime. This is why IBS Awareness Month is so important as people will often suffer in silence for their entire lives. 

Some common symptoms of IBS include stomach cramps, severe bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea. Whilst these symptoms are present, they can come and go. Some people will experience IBS-like symptoms for a day or two, but they may not be linked with IBS. For someone with IBS, these symptoms can be continuous for multiple days, weeks, or in some severe cases, months. As you can imagine, suffering from these symptoms for extended periods can be incredibly debilitating and will definitely take a toll on your everyday life. 

A woman holding her stomach.

Can you prevent IBS?

As mentioned, IBS has no actual known cause and is in fact linked with many different issues that surround gut health. Some links that can be drawn to IBS and gut health include food passing through your system too quickly, or even slowly, having oversensitive nerves in your stomach, and having increased levels of stress. As well as these problems, IBS can even be hereditary, meaning that it can be passed on through your family. If your family has a history of IBS, chances are you may begin to experience it also.

Sadly, this does mean that there is not much you can do to avoid IBS. If you do feel like you are suffering from any IBS symptoms then you should receive a consultation as there are ways to alleviate these. One of the biggest ways that you can help with your IBS symptoms is by adapting your lifestyle. For example, changing your diet will go a long way toward helping. 

What food should you eat to help IBS?

As mentioned, adapting your diet can be one of the best ways that you can help to combat the symptoms of IBS. This does not just include changing what foods you eat, but will also involve your actual eating habits, even down to how quickly you consume your food. One of the best things that you can do before changing any habits is to keep a diary of what you eat and when you eat it. You should also note down any symptoms you get after eating and when you get these. This can help you to spot any common variables that you can draw links to. 

Once you have done this, you may notice that there are some foods that trigger your IBS more than others, these should then be avoided or cut down upon. You should always try and cook healthy, balanced meals that include a lot of fresh ingredients. These ingredients should also be washed before use, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. There are no foods that are known to cause IBS, and each person is different. Some foods however can be grouped together as potential causes. Spicy food in particular can trigger IBS as it can cause upset in a sensitive stomach. The same can be said for fatty and processed foods. There are also certain food groups to avoid.

You should also try and ensure you are eating your meals at similar times every day and you should never skip a meal. This is to get your body used to your eating habits. Do not eat your food too quickly as this can trigger IBS caused by food entering your system too quickly. Some other changes you could make include limiting your caffeine intake, how much alcohol you consume, as well as others.

What IBS treatments work best?

If you find that changes to diet or lifestyle are not particularly helping, you may wish to look for medications that can help. There are many products out there that can help to ease the symptoms of IBS. There are specialised IBS medications, such as Buscopan, Mebeverine, Senocalm, Imodium Instants, Colofac, Colpermin, and Alverine Citrate. There are also products that can be purchased in order to help with particular symptoms of IBS. Medications are available for diarrhoea and constipation, and may be a good choice if you find that you suffer from one symptom more than another. 

Unfortunately, as there is no actual ‘cure’ medications are only available to alleviate symptoms rather than actually ‘curing’ them. However, taken in conjunction with adaptations to lifestyle and diet, you should find that your overall condition in regards to IBS will be a lot more bearable and manageable. 

The idea behind IBS Awareness Month is to not let people with IBS suffer in silence. IBS is a topic that is not talked about enough and is something that anyone can suffer with. IBS will usually rear its head in people between the age of 20 and 30. It is not common to first experience IBS in ages above or below this. For further support with IBS, check out IBS medication online at UK Meds.