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Pathologies Of The Gut: Irritable Bowel Disease

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

✍🏻 Sameeha Ali | BSc Biomedical Science graduate from Aston University

 

What is irritable bowel syndrome? 🏥

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the digestive system.

It is characterised by abdominal pain and changes in bowel movement.

 

What is the difference between IBS and IBD? 🔥

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the umbrella term used to describe diseases that cause persistent inflammation of the gut.

While IBS, on the other hand, is free of inflammation.

 

What are the causes of IBS? 🦠

It is estimated that around 13 million people in the UK suffer from IBS.

Researchers have been unable to understand the exact cause of IBS, but there are a few factors that have been linked to its onset.

  • Abnormal muscle contractions: Contractions of the muscles that line the walls of your intestines may be too strong (causing diarrhoea and gas) or too weak (causing constipation).

  • Gut-brain interaction: The gut-brain interaction is the communication that happens between your gut and your central nervous system (brain and spine). You can find more information on the gut-brain interaction here. Extra-sensitive nerves in your gut can trigger changes in your brain and impair the gut-brain interaction. This can lead your brain to overreact to the normal environment of your gut, causing pain and discomfort.

  • Changes in gut microbiota: Gut microbiota refers to the microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, virus and fungi) that reside in your digestive system. As mentioned in this article, a balanced microbiota is essential for proper digestive processes. Changes in the level or type of microorganisms can increase your chances of developing IBS.

 

What are the symptoms of IBS? 🩺

Symptoms vary from person-to-person.

The most common include:

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Bloating

  • Excessive gas

  • Changes in bowel movements (diarrhoea, constipation or sometimes both)

  • Mucus in poo

Other symptoms include nausea, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and sudden urges to use the bathroom.

 

How is IBS diagnosed? 🏥

IBS cannot be diagnosed with a single test.

Instead, a doctor will usually look at your medical family history if you are suspected to have IBS.


Blood tests and a physical examination of your abdomen are also performed to look for bloating and other symptoms. Testing for and ruling out other conditions also helps in diagnosis as IBS is notorious for mimicking more serious conditions.

 

How is IBS treated and managed? 💊

Treatment for IBS focuses on managing symptoms.

As all patients experience different symptoms, doctors will recommend a personalised treatment plan for each patient. Most treatment plans for IBS will include:


Dietary Changes

  • Eating foods high in fibre (e.g., fruits, vegetables and grains)

  • Avoiding foods high in gluten (e.g., pasta, breads and cereals)

  • Avoiding trigger foods

  • Drinking plenty of water

Lifestyle Changes

  • Exercising more

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Reducing stress and anxiety

Medications

  • Laxatives (medications that help empty your bowels and relieve constipation)

  • Fibre supplements (fibre helps poo move through your bowels easier)

  • Probiotics (supplements that contain live microorganisms and help to restore gut microbiota)

  • Anti-depressants (medications that help combat depression and anxiety)

Treating IBS may require some trial and error, but with the right healthcare and guidance, you can effectively minimise symptoms and improve wellbeing.

 
Isobel Thompson, Content Writer at Write in the Loop

Written by: Sameeha Ali (Content Writer)


Grace Pountney, Founder and Director at Write in the Loop

Edited by: Grace Pountney (Founder and Director)


 
 

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