One of the most prevalent digestive disorders to blight the health of around 20% of the UK population is IBS. It’s estimated that far more people (60-75%) of the population suffer the symptoms of IBS but don’t visit the GP and are therefore never diagnosed.
But as sufferers will know, the symptoms can be severely debilitating and the complexity of the range of symptoms that may make up one individual’s IBS may differ enormously from the range that makes up another persons.
Around 33% of patients suffer from constipation-dominant IBS, while another third suffer diarrhoea-dominant IBS. The remaining third remain unclassified, or have to endure alternating diarrhoea and constipation.
Besides this, sufferers may feel abdominal pain, experience bloating or excessive flatulence. And besides the gastro-intestinal symptoms, a number of other symptoms are reported by patients. These include lethargy, poor sleep, backache, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, feeling of fullness when eating, bladder disorders, and fibromyalgia.
The functional medicine approach used by Nutritional Therapists has been applied to cases of IBS, looking at underlying causes for the condition – rather than treating each symptom we look to address the cause so that long-term relief can be achieved.
So what are the causes of IBS? Well, just like the symptoms, the causes will vary from person to person, but there are recognised links with IBS and a number of culprits: food intolerances are often present (reported in as many as 66% of cases), as is stress, and an imbalance in gut flora (are your unfriendly bacteria out-weighing your beneficial bacteria?) This may have been the result of a parasitic infection in the gut, use of antibiotics or antacids.
And as if that wasn’t enough, diets high in sugar have also been linked to this imbalance. There’s growing awareness that the typical UK diet (high in processed foods and low in whole foods and fruit and vegetables) is detrimental to healthy digestive system, particularly the balance of gut flora.
Not surprisingly, many sufferers also show symptoms of depression or low mood. Living with IBS can be both the source and the result of stress and low mood is common in both.
If you’re living with any of the symptoms described above, there are a number of approaches that could help make the quality of your life better. Identifying the exact imbalances and devising an appropriate programme to address them is the first step.
All you need to do is to complete a health questionnaire and a food diary to get started. To receive these by email, please complete the form below.