April is IBS Awareness Month, so we are bringing you this special issue of our newsletter all about IBS. In the articles that follow we will look at nutrition, osteopathy, mind-body therapies and reflexology.
Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a distressing illness which includes abdominal pain or discomfort and a variety of other symptoms. The pain is usually linked to bowel function, being either relieved by defecation or associated with a change in stool frequency or consistency. Other symptoms may include bloating, straining at defecation, urgency, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, and the passage of mucus from the rectum.
IBS affects between five and 19% of the population of the UK, or approximately 6-8 million people). The figure varies depending on what criteria are used to define IBS. However, only a third of sufferers present to their GP. IBS may present at any age, but the peak prevalence is in the 30s and 40s, and there is a female predominance, which is most obvious in the 3rd decade.
In spite of the name irritable bowel syndrome, symptoms may emanate from the whole gut rather than just the colon. Furthermore many IBS patients also suffer from “functional dyspepsia” a condition characterised by low chest pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and early satiety (ie feeling full after eating very little).
IBS may start following a gut infection or an adverse life event, but it may simply come on gradually without obvious cause. However it is more common among those suffering from depression and anxiety.
There is no structural abnormality, but the symptoms of IBS may be explained by abnormal activity in the smooth muscle of the gut and/or hypersensitivity of the gut and abnormal processing of painful stimuli by the brain. Approximately three quarters of patients report that stress leads to acute abdominal pain and changes in stool pattern.
In this special issue we will be looking at treatments we offer at BIHC which may help to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. As an integrative health centre we look at the problem of IBS from all angles, including nutrition to help repair and protect your gut, osteopathy to improve the structure and function of the gut, and counselling which may help to relieve symptoms by enabling the client to relax and reduce the effects of stress.
Reference: Spiller R. et al., Guidelines on the irritable bowel syndrome: mechanisms and practical management, Gut 2007; 56:1770–1798