Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder where the bowel looks normal, but it doesn’t function properly. It is incredibly common, affecting about 1 in 5 people in the UK. The diagnosis of IBS is usually made when other conditions such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, have been ruled out.
Symptoms include bloating, wind, diarrhoea, constipation, acid reflux, nausea and abdominal pain.
Many people with IBS also experience other non-digestion symptoms. Up to 63% have chronic fatigue, 81% back pain, 45% headaches and 56% frequent urination. Symptoms such as dizziness, muscle pain and sleeping problems are also more common.
IBS is also much more common with other conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Traditional Treatment for IBS
Until recently, dietary advice given by health professionals for IBS has been, at best, vague and unsatisfactory. Current advice may include: reduce stress, adjust fibre intake, regular meals, restrict caffeine, fruit juice, fruit and sorbitol, exercise and trying probiotics. Medications such as laxatives, anti-diarrheals, anti-spasmodics and anti-depressants are often prescribed. Unfortunately, IBS patients can be left frustrated because these medications often don’t help.
Low FODMAP Diet
The Low FODMAP Diet is a new dietary therapy which has been published in international medical journals and is now accepted and recommended as one of the most effective therapies for IBS. When done well with the guidance of an experienced dietitian it can be very successful at significantly reducing IBS symptoms.
Many GPs and Gastroenterologists are aware of the Low FODMAP diet, and should be referring patients to a registered dietitian (as per NHS guidelines). However, in my experience, many GPs simply advise their patient to do their own research on the Low FODMAP Diet, or give an over simplified hand out. Unfortunately, this often results in confusion and limited success.
For ‘1st line’ advice on effective strategies to try for IBS, here is an excellent information sheet from the British Dietetic Association
For more information on the Low FODMAP Diet click here