Managing your incontinence
A Guide to Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that can have a dramatic impact on sufferers’ quality of life. Up to 1 in 5 experience faecal incontinence.1 But there are things you can do to reduce symptoms.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Commonly referred to as IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the name given to a collection of symptoms related to the gut. Some people experience only mild symptoms, whereas for others the impact can be severe.
IBS symptoms can include abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, or a change in bowel habits which lasts for more than six months. Those changes in bowel habits could be straining, increased urgency, incomplete evacuation or passing mucus.
However, if you experience unexplained weight loss, rectal bleeding, if you have a family history of bowel or ovarian cancer, or if you are aged 60 or over and experience symptoms for more than 6 weeks, then you should immediately speak to your GP.
What are the causes?
The exact causes of IBS are not known, but it is linked to a number of factors. These include misfiring of the nerves in the gut, stress, a family history of IBS, food passing too quickly or too slowly through the gut, and changes in the bacteria in the gut.
How dietary choices can help reduce symptoms
Although food is not typically the cause of IBS, it can exacerbate the symptoms. It is a good idea to keep a food diary to help you identify what triggers your IBS, as it varies from person to person. But foods that are known as common triggers of IBS symptoms include:
Processed snacks such as crisps and biscuits
Food high in fats
Following a low FODMAP diet may be a good idea. FODMAP stands for a group of sugars that the small intestine struggles to absorb. The FODMAP diet has been designed for people who experience gut issues, including IBS. However, this is a restrictive diet, so it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure you don’t miss out on essential nutrients.
Certain foods are known to ease the bloating, cramps and wind associated with IBS. These include:
- Soluble fibre, e.g. pulses, carrots and peeled potatoes
- Probiotic yoghurt and other supplements.
Other strategies include working on reducing stress. This could be counselling, practising mindfulness and relaxation exercises. One such relaxation technique is yoga, and many of the poses are said to aid gut function.
There are also medicines that may help. Speak to a pharmacist for advice.
Further advice and support are available at Health Direct, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs
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