20% of Australians experience irritable bowel syndrome or symptoms at some time. These symptoms include abdominal pain, mucus in the stools, bloating, and alternating diarrhoea and constipation. Whist the cause is unknown, environmental factors such as dietary changes, emotions, infections and immunity levels can impact severity and frequency. No known long term consequences have been documented, but it is often disabling and impacts daily quality of life for those affected.
Irritable bowel researchers have found that nerve endings in the intestines become unusually sensitive, magnifying pain. There is also a link to serotonin, which is involved in moderating our mental health. Other potential causes relate to frequent and recurrent antibiotic use, bacterial overgrowth and stress.
Ways to manage Irritable bowel symptoms include:
- Eat more fibre and keep up with fluids
- Reduce common gas-producing foods, such as beans and cabbage (aim for low FODMAP foods)
- Try eliminating dairy in case there is overlapping lactose intolerance
- Trial medications with your GP – anti-diarrhoea tablets (imodium or lomotil), pain tablets (paracetamol, codeine), antispasmodic drugs (e.g.belladonna, hyoscine and peppermint oil), tricyclic antidepressants
- Manage stress
- Stick to set eating routines
- See a dietitian, involve a psychologist if there are emotional triggers
- Do enough exercise and get enough sleep
- Take probiotics
Gut health is an increasingly common topic our members are asking us about. With irritable bowel syndrome or symptoms, we recommend a focus on healthy lifestyle, stress reduction and optimising your diet over time.
- Harvard University HealthBeat