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.