Irritable Bowel Syndrome
About 3 in 10 Australians have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
IBS is a disorder that affects the large intestine and produces uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, such as irregular bowel movements, pain and discomfort. This condition affects each patient differently.
Approximately 5-10% of the world population has IBS, yet no single cause has been identified. The severity of IBS varies widely, ranging from inconvenient discomfort for some patients to life-altering symptoms such as severe pain for others. Some people with IBS may experience difficulty maintaining a normal social life or job, because of the frequency and intensity of their symptoms, or due to bowel incontinence.
Symptoms are often affected by factors such as diet and change depending on the situation and trigger. A person with IBS may not experience the same set of symptoms over time.
There is often a lack of education and stigma around IBS. Sufferers frequently feel embarrassed about the symptoms that it produces and may be hesitant to seek help. However, there is no shame with such a common condition and there is much that can be done to manage the symptoms of IBS.
Some of the symptoms of IBS
The most common symptoms of IBS are:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Bloating and distension
- Changes in appearance of bowel movements
- In some cases, bowel incontinence
Causes and risk factors of IBS
The exact cause of IBS is unknown. However there are many well documented risk factors for IBS, and several of these are conditions that frequently occur in conjunction with IBS.
These known risk factors include:
- Disruption to the digestive tract, such as an infection
- Food intolerances
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Abnormal levels of serotonin in the gut
- Being female
- Food poisoning
- A slowed colon
- An imbalance of gut bacteria in the digestive tract
- Recent use of antibiotics
Treatment and management of IBS focuses on prevention, identification of triggers, and management of symptoms.
Because the potential causes of IBS are so varied, the treatment and management is often highly individualised to the person who is experiencing symptoms. There are some medicines that can be used to treat IBS, including:
- Anti diarrhoea medicines
- Targeted antibiotics and probiotics to address imbalances of gut bacteria
Scientific research shows that probiotics may be an effective treatment for IBS, but further research is being done to identify specific strains that would be of most benefit. Probiotic strain Bifidobacterium bifidum has been shown to reduce pain, bloating and diarrhoea. However, lifestyle and diet changes are often enough to successfully address the symptoms of IBS.
A low FODMAP diet is often recommended to IBS patients to try. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols, which is a mouthful! These are names for certain types of carbohydrates that can irritate the stomach and lead to gas, causing discomfort in people with IBS. Eating a low FODMAP diet and slowly re-introducing a wider range of foods may reduce symptoms and can often help people with IBS to identify any food intolerances so they can avoid them.
The University of Monash has a helpful and evidence-based app that you can use to follow a low FODMAP diet. However, it is recommended that you don’t make any significant changes to your diet without consulting your doctor first.
Diagnosis of IBS
The team at Moonee Valley Specialist Centre can help identify what issues might be exacerbating your IBS symptoms, whether that is an imbalance in your gut bacteria, lifestyle factors, or a food intolerance.
To provide the right diagnosis, it might involve a bit of an investigation into which factors are causing the problem for your own individual case.
All new patients must have a referral prior to receiving treatment at Moonee Valley Specialist Centre.
Please make sure you bring a written referral from your General Practitioner (GP) or medical specialist with you to your first appointment at Moonee Valley Specialist Centre.
A GP referral will last for 12 months and a medical specialist referral is valid for 3 months.
How Moonee Valley Specialist Centre can help
At Moonee Valley Specialist Centre, we have a specialist doctor called a gastroenterologist who works with the gastrointestinal tract. Dr Nathan Connelly is the medical specialist to see at our centre if you are suffering from IBS. We offer state-of-the-art facilities, and have access to exceptional medical technology.
If you are interested in conveniently central gastroenterologists who offer a conscientious and empathetic service, call us on 03 9372 0372 to book now.