Treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
As a Dietitian, the treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an area I’ve become increasingly passionate about. Research is constantly updating our views on IBS, providing better treatments and understanding. It’s great to be a part of this, as I’ve witnessing substantial improvements in symptoms using diets such as the low FODMAP diet in the treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Despite these exciting developments in the treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), there are still many misunderstandings surrounding IBS. If you’ve been diagnosed with or believe you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome then keep reading and see if you agree with my….
Top 5 misunderstandings surrounding Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
“A little irritating”
I blame the name ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’ for this first misunderstanding. I’m not sure the word ‘irritable’ does it justice. Many of the IBS symptoms are better described as being; ‘raging’ ‘furious’ ‘angry’, rather than ‘irritable’!
The symptoms related to IBS have a huge impact on sufferers quality of life. IBS sufferers have 3 times more time off work than non IBS sufferers – presenting a huge financial burden for companies and individuals alike. For those of you interested in healthcare budgeting (?!) – 1 in 12 visits to the GP are related to Irritable Bowel syndrome, and 1 in 4 visits to the Gastroenterologist – a staggering number! So, the treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and its financial costs affects many of us.
“They don’t know what it is, so the doctor just fobbed me off with an IBS diagnosis”
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a diagnosis in its own right. Diagnosed from symptom description and importantly after the ruling out of other gut disorders or disease such as Inflammatory Bowel disease (IBD), Coeliac disease and Cancers of the bowel. IBS is diagnosed based on your clinical symptoms. It is classified as a ‘functional gut disorder’ meaning the symptoms cannot be explained by the presence of structural or tissue abnormality. Your bowel functions differently, for a range of reasons we are currently increasingly understanding.
Misunderstanding # 3
“Just chill out”
….if only it was that simple! Stress does have a huge impact on the functioning of the gut. It is normal for the gut to react to stress and this happens in us all. However, the gut of the person with IBS may be more sensitive to this stress. Also, which comes first – the chicken or the egg?? IBS symptoms cause stress, stress results in gut symptoms. A vicious cycle!
Stress management, counselling, antidepressant medication and/or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are an important part of the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (it’s not all about diet!). Some find great symptom improvement with them. However, for the majority, a combined approach of managing stress levels along with other factors that contribute to symptoms (such as diet and looking after your gut bacteria) is the most effective approach.
So, it’s not as simple as “just chilling out”, but equally – don’t neglect psychology in the pursuit of treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
“I’ve got a ‘little bit’ of IBS too”
It seems everyone has ‘a little bit’ of IBS and many of the gut symptoms associated with IBS occur in us all from time to time. However for the diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome to be made, strict criteria based on the ‘Rome III criteria’ must be met. In the UK, 10-15% of the population have been diagnosed with IBS, so it is very common. But, just because it is common, doesn’t mean it makes the symptoms any less distressing.
“Try cutting out bread – it worked for me”
Again, it’s really not that simple. Some may find symptom relief from cutting out certain foods. But this can then put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies, delay the diagnosis of other conditions and alter your gut bacteria – all reducing your overall health. Cutting foods out of your diet can also be expensive and has huge social implications. Seek out a Dietitian, and do it properly. See my blog on ‘Can I try the FODMAP diet‘ for more information about why it’s not a good idea to ‘go it alone’.
Are you interested in the treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Please check out The Internet Dietitian.com for more information on one-to-one e-mail nutritional consultations with Sian – a FODMAP trained Dietitian.
Please comment below if you have experienced the treatments of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or their misunderstandings.