As Christmas approaches, most of us are preoccupied with thoughts of family gatherings and festive fun. But for up to one in five Britons, excitement may be tinged with apprehension at the thought of what all those irregular mealtimes may do to their bowels.
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, affects up to 20% of people in a lifetime, usually starting in early adult life. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain and change in bowel habit. With symptoms often made worse by change in diet, alcohol and irregular eating patterns, the festive season can be ruined.
Although IBS is a 'functional' bowel disease (there's nothing wrong with the structure of any part of the gut, but the different parts don't work properly together), it can cause severe symptoms. Lifestyle and diet changes can make a significant difference, but what works for one person may not help another. For instance, there are two main kinds of IBS - diarrhoea-predominant and constipation-predominant. Soluble fibre can help if you're troubled by constipation, but can make symptoms worse if you have diarrhoea. It is often helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms and your lifestyle so you can work out what your triggers are. The new patient.info app for IBS sufferers, available on iPhone and Android phones, could be just what you need. The symptom tracker will help you record your bowel movements and the type and severity of symptoms that you get each day. It will also let you record notes on food and lifestyle.
If you are advised to try a particular treatment, log your bowel movements and the type and severity of symptoms for a week or so on your app. You can then assess whether treatment has helped. You can also share your results with your GP.
There are several medications available to help with the different symptoms of IBS. If your IBS is moderate or severe and constipation is your main issue, there is now a new treatment option available. Constella® is licensed just for the treatment of moderate to severe constipation-predominant IBS and can help with abdominal pain, constipation and bloating.
There is no 'cure' for IBS but with a little forward planning, you can work out what will help keep your symptoms under control. It may be that you are one of the people who will really benefit from exercising regularly or increasing your fluid intake. Maybe cutting down on wheat, rye or coffee will help? Harness the power of technology to work out a tailored plan - it could be the start of a whole new you!
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.