Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS): Effective Treatments and Solutions from The Devon Clinic CIC
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic (long-term) disorder that affects the digestive system. It causes abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation.
The Devon Clinic CIC is pleased to offer IBS treatments from the following local practitioner(s):
More About IBS
There are different types of IBS, depending on your main symptom. It’s known by a variety of other names, including spastic colon, spastic colitis, mucous colitis, nervous diarrhoea, nervous colon and nervous or functional bowel.
However, some of these names misrepresent the condition. Colitis, for example, is an inflammation of the colon and this symptom isn’t found in people with IBS.
The symptoms of IBS can fluctuate. There may be times when your symptoms are particularly troublesome and times when you experience no symptoms at all.
The most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are:
• Abdominal pain and cramping which is often relieved by emptying your bowel
• A change in your bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation or sometimes both
• Bloating and swelling of your abdomen
• Excessive wind
• Experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet, which can result in incontinence if a toilet is not nearby
• A feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowel
• The passing of mucus from your rectum (back passage)
The symptoms of IBS are usually worse after eating. Most people will experience a ‘flare-up’ of symptoms, lasting between 2-4 days, after which the symptoms improve, or disappear altogether.
For reasons that are not completely understood, IBS can also cause symptoms in other parts of your body, as well as in your bowel. These symptoms include:
• Lower back pain
•Muscle and joint pain
• Constant tiredness
• Bad breath
• A frequent and urgent need to urinate
Due to the pain, discomfort and embarrassment that are sometimes associated with IBS, some people also experience feelings of anxiety and depression.
Although IBS poses no serious threat to health, it can have an adverse effect on a person’s quality of life. The exact causes of IBS are unknown.
IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions. It is estimated that 10-20% of the UK’s population is affected by IBS at any one time, although this figure may be higher because many people with the condition do not report their symptoms to their GP.
IBS is twice as common in women as it is in men. The condition normally develops in people who are between 20 and 30 years of age, but it can affect people of any age.
While there is no cure for IBS, the symptoms can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medicine.
If you have the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your GP will usually recommend that you undergo a blood test in order that other conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as infection, or Coeliac disease (a stomach condition caused by gluten intolerance) can be ruled out.
GPs can usually confidently diagnose IBS by asking you about your symptoms.
Your GP will ask you whether you have had any of the following symptoms that have lasted for at least six months:
• Changes in your bowel habits, such as constipation, or diarrhoea
• Pain and discomfort in your abdomen
• A bloated feeling
Your GP will be looking for some specific symptoms that are needed for a positive diagnosis of IBS. These are either:
• Abdominal pain, or discomfort, that goes away after you empty your bowel
• Abdominal pain, or discomfort, with a change in your bowel habits – for example, you may go to toilet more often than you did before, or you may produce stools that look different from usual
For IBS to be diagnosed, you will also need to have at least two of the following symptoms:
• A change in how you pass stools, such as needing to strain, feeling a sense of urgency, or feeling that you have not emptied your bowels properly
•Bloating, hardness or tension in your abdomen
• Symptoms that are worse after eating
• The passing of mucus from your rectum (back passage)
Further testing is usually only required when you have specific symptoms, or signs, that suggest that you may have a more serious condition than IBS. These symptoms include:
• Unexplained weight loss
• Abdominal and rectal mass (localised swelling in the abdomen and/or rectum)
• Bleeding from your rectum (back passage)
• Anaemia (a condition that occurs when there is a reduced number of red blood cells, or haemoglobin concentration in the blood)
Further testing may also be recommended if you have a family history of bowel, or ovarian, cancer, or if you are over 60 years of age and you have experienced a change in your bowel habits that has lasted more than six weeks.
IBS AND COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES
A number of complementary therapies for IBS have been suggested, which are based on physical and psychological interventions:
• Reflexology (a type of massage therapy)
• The herbal remedy aloe vera (a plant that is native to north Africa)
However, there is no evidence that these complementary therapies are effective at treating IBS. You should also be aware that aloe vera has been linked to a number of possible adverse effects, such as dehydration and a reduction in blood sugar levels.
If your symptoms of IBS are still causing you problems after 12 months of treatment, you may be referred for a type of therapy known as a psychological intervention.
There are several types of interventions available, but they all work by teaching you psychological techniques that can help you to control your condition more effectively:
Psychodynamic interpersonal therapy (PIT) – a type of psychotherapy that has had some success in helping people with IBS. PIT is based on the principle that your unconscious thoughts, beliefs and attitudes can have an important influence on the way that you think, act, and feel. During PIT, your therapist will help you to explore your past in order to determine how it might have affected you unconsciously, and they will help you to confront unwelcome, or unhelpful beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour in an attempt to change them.
Hypnotherapy – in this type of therapy, hypnosis is used to change your unconscious mind’s attitude towards any symptoms that you may have. You may also be taught self-hypnosis techniques. Hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective in helping some people reduce their symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – based on the principle that the way that we feel is partly dependent on the way that we think about things.
Studies into the effectiveness of CBT have shown that people who train themselves to react differently to their condition by using relaxation techniques and maintaining a positive attitude, report a decrease in pain levels.
CBT may also help you to cope better with stress, anxiety and depression.
IBS is also sometimes known as:
- Functional bowel
- Mucous colitis
- Nervous bowel
- Nervous colon
- Nervous diarrhoea
- Spastic colitis
- Spastic colon