If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you are not alone. It is actually one of the most common disorders seen by doctors, with an estimated 9-23 % of people suffering worldwide. In 1977, the International Foundation for Functional Gut Disorders designated April as IBS Awareness Month with the aim of raising awareness of the important health messages surrounding the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life in sufferers. Here at Love Your Gut we have highlighted some key symptoms to look out for if you suspect you may have IBS, as well as some top tips to enable you to pluck up the courage to go and see your GP if you are worried about it.
IBS is a medical term given to a collection of otherwise unexplained symptoms relating to a disturbance of the large bowel. Symptoms of IBS can vary between sufferers and can affect some people more severely than others. Here are some common symptoms:
• Abdominal pain and spasms, often relieved by going to the toilet.
• Diarrhoea, constipation or an alternation between the two.
• Bloating or swelling of the abdomen.
• Rumbling noises and excessive passage of wind.
• Urgency (an urgent need to visit the toilet).
• Sharp pain felt low down inside the gut and rectum.
• Sensation of incomplete bowel movement.
It is important to see your GP if you think you have any of these symptoms in order for them to try and determine the cause. Some may find going to their GP about IBS symptoms daunting and embarrassing. Do not be afraid, you are not alone.To help you, we have put together some tips to make it easier to approach your doctor.
Christine Norton is a Professor of Clinical Nursing Research at King’s College, London and a Nurse Consultant at St. Mark’s Hospital, Harrow. She sees hundreds of people a year with digestive problems, here are her words of advice on visiting your doctor:
- Rehearse what you want to say before you come in.
- If you are concerned that you may not remember what you wanted to say, take some brief notes with you.
- Remember you are not the first person to have a problem – we have treated and seen thousands before.
- Your doctor or nurse will not be embarrassed, so you should try not to be.
- Use words that you are comfortable with and use regularly.
- Don’t be afraid to use everyday words like ‘poo’ and ‘bottom’.
- Open conversations with lines such as: ‘I’ve noticed a change in my bowel movements’ or ‘when I go to the toilet I am finding blood in my stools.’
- The more honest you can be the better – even if you think you are being quite graphic.
- No one likes being sworn at but if you can find no other word then use the four letter one beginning with s!
- Remember the embarrassment is temporary but leaving a problem alone could lead to larger and more painful issues.
Note: If your doctor or nurse feels that you need to be examined, this will only ever be after explaining why this is needed and asking for your consent.
You will also be pleased to know that there is lots of information available which can answer the many questions you may have. For more information:
- Visit the International Foundation for Functional Gut Disorders website to find out more information about IBS and IBS awareness day; you can also view real life personal stories from IBS sufferers: http://www.aboutibs.org/site/living-with-ibs/ibs-awareness-month/
- Visit the IBS network website. The IBS network is the UK’s leading charity for IBS and offers a wide range of information, advice and support to patients with IBS: http://www.theibsnetwork.org/
- Don’t forget to check out some of Love Your Gut’s recipes for the sensitive gut at: http://loveyourgut.com/recipes/recipe/