Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

A condition that is more common than people think, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a disorder of the digestive system.  It affects around a third of the population usually between the ages of twenty and forty and tends to affect women slightly more than men.  It can be a very distressing condition to live with and have a negative effect on people’s lives often impacting their social lives. 

There is no cure, although symptoms can be controlled or minimised, but it tends to be a lifelong problem.  It has a variety of symptoms that can vary from one person to another as can the severity of the condition.  You may have days when your symptoms are better than others, and days when you have flare-ups when they are much worse. 


There is no known cause for IBS, but it has been linked to several different things like a family history of IBS, stress, oversensitive nerves in the gut, as well as food passing either to slowly or to fast through your gut.  Symptoms can be triggered by certain foods or drinks.

Physical Symptoms

·      Bloating of the stomach which can feel uncomfortable, flatulence (passing wind) and feeling nauseous

·      Stomach cramps and pain, this can be worse after eating but can improve when you empty your bowels.  You may also suffer with back pain.

·      Diarrhoea which can occur suddenly without warning making the need to go to the toilet a priority which can lead to incontinence as you are unable to control the urge

·      Constipation causing you to strain or struggle when you need to empty your bowels which can be painful, or feeling like you haven’t fully emptied your bowels after you’ve been to the toilet

·      Passing mucus from your bottom or needing to pass water frequently or feeling like your bladder is still full after you have emptied it

·      Feeling lethargic or tired

Psychological Symptoms and Behaviours

·      Anxiety

·      Stress

·      Depression

·      Withdrawing from social occasions due to feeling embarrassed or self-conscious


There are lots of support groups available online who can help you learn about your condition and how to manage it.  If you struggle with stress they can suggest several ways to help reduce it including, yoga, mindfulness and relaxation technics which can help. Keeping a diary, to see what if anything triggers your IBS, like certain foods, drinks or situations that you might find stressful which can affect your IBS symptoms.      

Professional Help

You should always consult your doctor if you have any change in your bowel habits or stomach pain.  They will talk through your symptoms and may do tests to rule out any other conditions before they diagnose IBS.  They might suggest a change to your diet, the FODMAP diet has proved helpful for people with IBS, and you can find information regarding this online.  They can also prescribe medication or recommend over the counter products to help manage your symptoms.  Psychological therapies have also proved to be useful for people who have had no success with diet changes or medication.  Talking therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help patients whose symptoms are tiggered by anxiety or stress.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free Information click above link.