Five Things to know about Irritable Bowel Syndrome

1. Irritable bowel syndrome, or “IBS,” is a common condition for which there is no cure. However, most people with help from your doctor and with dietary modification can get good control of their symptoms and have a good quality of life.

2. Symptoms include pain in your belly and cramps, often right after eating, diarrhoea or constipation (some people switch between diarrhoea and constipation), bloating and gas/ wind.

3. There is no special test for IBS and you should see your doctor or a specialist who will exclude other causes by taking a history and some tests if necessary particularly if you have risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease and bowel cancer or if your IBS is first diagnosed in your 50s.

4. You can help yourself by keeping note of what you ate and your symptoms in a diary. This would help identify foods that make you worse. Extra fibre in your diet might help if you are constipated. Regular exercise has been shown to help improve IBS symptoms.

5. Medicines can help with your symptoms and these include antidiarrheal tablets (to slow your bowels), antidepressants (in a low dose to reduce nerve hypersensitivity) and antispasmodics (to help with the pain). Stress reduction by counselling can also be beneficial.

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