Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS for short, changes the way the bowel functions and is the root of abdominal pain. Typical symptoms include constipation, diarrhoea, or a combination of the two. IBS sufferers also typically feel bloated and need to make frequent trips to the toilet.

IBS is classed as a functional gut disorder, as it is the result of a gut problem, rather than a disease in the bowel itself. IBS is sometimes used as an umbrella term for other functional gut disorders, due to its commonness.

There is not one sole cause for IBS which has been determined. Various causes include certain food types, as well as stress in some cases. Other factors which can trigger the condition include a history of infectious gastroenteritis – this type of IBS is referred to as ‘post-infectious’. There are currently no specific guidelines related to which foods trigger symptoms in IBS patients – for this reason, consultation with a specialist can be vital in planning a diet which minimises symptoms.

Diagnosis of IBS

A diagnosis of IBS is usually made after the results of diagnostic examinations are matched up with typical symptoms. The type of tests undertaken are typically linked to a patient’s symptoms. Examinations may include blood tests, endoscopy tests, radiological tests and stool tests, and are also used to exclude and detect other serious conditions. Sugar malabsorption can be another indicator of IBS and is typically detected with a breath test. In some cases, stool or food diaries might be analysed to supplement other tests which are carried out.

There are scenarios in which a condition can mimic IBS, such as in the case of an overactive thyroid. Unlike IBS, many of these conditions have known cures, meaning they are entirely reversible if addressed properly.

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Treatment of IBS

Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome is tailored to the individual and dependent on their symptoms. The two main types of treatment are dietary intervention and drug therapy.

Dietary intervention seeks to address symptoms that IBS patients suffer which are related to food and digestion, improving their condition through changes to their diet. After identifying which foods cause problems, alternatives can be sought to take their place in the patient’s diet. There are certain dietary intervention methods which have the potential to reduce the symptoms of people with IBS, such as decreasing fermentable sugars and chemical additives. Mr Windsor has extensive experience in this area of treatment.

Drug therapy for IBS patients is typically administered to affect positive changes in gut motility. Laxatives for those with constipation and drugs which slow the bowels for those with diarrhoea are common examples of drug therapy. Abdominal pain is another symptom for which a London doctor might prescribe drug treatment. While many painkillers are not an effective treatment for IBS, there are some medicines which relieve pain by changing the transmission of bowel nerve signals or addressing bowel spasms.

Making an appointment

If you are an IBS sufferer, or have experienced some of the symptoms detailed above, you are welcome to book a consultation with Mr Alastair Windsor.