Many people with IBS experience abdominal pain, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
While the cause is unknown, research shows that environmental factors such as a change in routine, stress, infection and diet can trigger symptoms.
At the Centre for Gastrointestinal Health, we recognise the impact IBS has on quality of life for our patients and our team is up to date on the latest research and treatment options.
We take a holistic approach to IBS symptoms and causes, providing each of our patients with a comprehensive and individualised treatment plan.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects around one in five Australians at some point in their lifetime.
Typical symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and alternating diarrhoea or constipation. While IBS can be highly uncomfortable and impact your quality of life, only a handful of people experience severe symptoms, and the disorder is not considered dangerous or life-threatening. Further, IBS does not cause long-term intestinal damage, nor is there any evidence to suggest that it leads to the development of more serious bowel conditions such as cancer or colitis.
It is also not to be confused with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the name given for a group of disorders that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
Women are more likely to be affected by IBS than men, and symptoms tend to first occur in early adulthood.
Changes in routine, diet, emotional stress and infection are among the leading causes of IBS, however dietary triggers in particular vary widely from person to person. It is also believed that the neurotransmitter and “happy hormone” serotonin may influence symptoms of IBS by altering the function of nerve cells in the bowel.
Managing these lifestyle factors can help many control their symptoms, whereas a more holistic approach to treatment - that may include therapy and medication - is often the best course of action for those with more severe symptoms.
Among the most common symptoms of IBS are:
Women may be more affected by common IBS symptoms around the time of menstruation, and menopausal women tend to experience fewer symptoms than women who are still menstruating. Additionally, approximately one third of women report an increase in certain symptoms during pregnancy, including heartburn, nausea and bowel movements or constipation.
The lower incidence of IBS symptoms in men has often been attributed to them being less inclined to report symptoms or seek treatment, resulting in a lack of useful data. However, some studies have suggested that due to hormonal differences, the male gut may simply be less susceptible to IBS-related symptoms.
While the exact cause of IBS is still unknown, there are a number of common underlying factors known to trigger symptoms in people who tend to experience IBS. These include:
If you notice a persistent change in bowel habits and suspect you have irritable bowel syndrome, it is important to seek medical advice. Your doctor may be able to diagnose IBS based on your symptoms, as well as rule out any other possible illnesses or causes for your symptoms.
These could include coeliac disease (an immune intolerance to gluten) and lactose intolerance (a reduced ability to digest sugars in dairy products), both of which can produce similar symptoms to those of IBS.
Your doctor may go through some of the following diagnosis methods:
Your doctor can undertake a medical health check and order initial tests to help identify potential causes of symptoms. They may refer you to a Gastroenterologist who can provide expert advice and treatment options.
The team at the Centre for Gastrointestinal health is highly experienced in helping patients living with IBS and the impacts on their lifestyle.
In the event of an IBS diagnosis, you may be referred to see one of our expert dieticians or gastroenterologists - specialists in diagnosing and treating patients experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms.
We see many patients living with the symptoms of IBS and understand the impact it has on their daily living. Unlike some other conditions, IBS cannot always be cured through prescription medication. As a result, we aim to treat those struggling with IBS using a holistic approach. We consider lifestyle factors, diet factors and medical history to help find practical ways to avoid triggers.
We also provide effective treatment solutions should symptoms arise to minimise the impact on day-to-day living. Our expert, empathetic and caring approach provides patients with the most comprehensive, self-empowering and least invasive treatment possible to suit their individual needs.
Rather than immediately turning to long-term medications, our team of gastroenterologists, led by Dr Pran Yoganathan, approach the symptoms of IBS with a view to identify and tackle the possible underlying causes of your condition.
In conjunction with a highly-qualified dietician, they will assess your symptoms and may recommend you keep a food diary, as well as make certain alterations to your diet and lifestyle that could include:
The impact of stress on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome cannot be understated, and whether it's rushing to work, meeting tight deadlines or dropping the kids off at school, our ultra-busy modern lifestyles often do us no favours. The mind and body - and as such, the brain and the gut - are closely intertwined, which is why it is vital to be aware of and take control of your stress levels, as this can play a significant role in reducing the symptoms of IBS. As part of your treatment, our consultants will provide strategies to better manage your stress through both physical and emotional support, and may also recommend activities such as yoga, meditation and other mind-body exercises.
Probiotics refer to live bacteria found in certain foods and supplements, similar to natural gut flora found in our own digestive systems, but which can sometimes become unbalanced. Changes to our gut flora can have a negative impact on IBS symptoms, such as inflammation, a reduction of immune function, or an increase in intestinal sensitivity to gas. Research has shown that eating common probiotic foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut or kimchi, or indeed taking a probiotic supplement, can be an aid against IBS symptoms in a number of ways, including: Restoring balance in the digestive tract Strengthening the immune system's defence mechanisms Stopping or slowing the growth of disease-causing bacteria Slowing down bowel movements
While individual foods are unlikely to lead to the development of IBS, they can amplify certain symptoms. A large intake of foods such as broccoli, beans and cabbage may contribute to gas and bloating, while it's also worth looking out for a possible intolerance to dairy or gluten products, as well as not over-consuming stimulants such as caffeine and carbonated drinks, and ensuring you get enough fibre in your diet.
There is no known cure for irritable bowel syndrome, however through effective treatment the symptoms of IBS can be reduced and even go away altogether over time.
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