The first thing to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome is that it is a syndrome, not a disease. This means IBS is a combination of abnormalities that tends to occur together. This is why when you’re diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you are likely to be confused about how to cope with it. IBS can be insidious, chronic and can cause extensive damage to your digestive system.
In addition to being a syndrome, there are much more to know about IBS.
Here are the 10 things to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
1. Although not life-threatening, Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be very uncomfortable
The good news is, Irritable Bowel Syndrome won’t kill you, but it can definitely cause uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms. It is possible to experience loud gut noises, as soon as the stomach starts bloating, and it can happen quite drastically. Others might also complain about frequent loose stool, coupled with cramps and gas.
2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is more common than you think
Around 1 in 5 Australians experiences the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and it is also the most common disease that gastroenterologist diagnoses. It is also estimated that about 10-15% of the population suffers from IBS worldwide, making it more common than we ever thought.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome start from the colon
When suffering from IBS, the colon or the large intestine is where everything happens. The symptoms including cramps, constipation, diarrhoea or both starts in the colon. For instance, one of the few first symptoms is that you might suffer from a sudden urge to go to the toilets, and it starts in the colon.
4. It is sometimes also called the brain-gut disorder
Hidden behind in the walls of the digestive system, there is a little brain called, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) which is the “brain in your gut”. According to Johns Hopkins Centre for Neurogastroenterology, the ENS system communicates changing bowel habits with the brain directly.
And because the brain regulates digestion and other gastrointestinal tasks, your mood and mental health is said to influence the symptoms of IBS.
5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome strikes twice as many women as men
Women are more likely to suffer from IBS than men – probably because the GI system behaves differently in women. A study on IBS suggests that the nerve cells that control food movement through the colon are more sluggish to brain responses in women when compared to men. In fact, while IBS affects both men and women, almost two-thirds of IBS sufferers are women.
6. No one has yet proven what causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome
While no studies have yet proven what exactly causes IBS, there are certain things known to trigger IBS. This includes environmental factors such as exposure to bacteria causing infection, unmanaged stress, a certain type of diet and medications.
7. Eating a certain diet can help reduce IBS symptoms
If you suffer from IBS symptoms, then talk to a doctor or a dietician on what food to avoid eating. But, in general, drink plenty of water, avoid fatty and fried food. Limit alcohol and caffeine as they trigger IBS too.
8. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is different from Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Unlike IBS, Inflammatory Bowel Disease involves the immune system. IBS is also insidious, making it difficult to treat as compared to inflammatory bowel disease. It is possible that your colonoscopy will not see any abnormalities, but you may still have IBS symptoms as they are influenced by changing bowel functions.
9. Reducing stress can help
It is often the anxiety and depression about being out and about that worsens the symptoms of IBS. So, manage your stress to reduce the symptoms of IBS.
10. IBS is very manageable
IBS has no cure, but with the right lifestyle choices, it is very manageable. Choosing to eat the right diet, getting regular physical exercise, healthy weight and sound mental health and medications are the keys to manage IBS.
If you’re over 40, and IBS runs in your family or if you have been previously diagnosed with other bowel health issues, then you should see a gastroenterologist for gut health.