Irritable Bowel Syndrome - the symptoms and how to speak to your doctor about it
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that can be thoroughly unpleasant.
To mark Love Your Gut Week 2017, Love Your Gut is working with partners, including The IBS Network, to offer advice on recognising the symptoms and speaking to your doctor about them.
If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you are not alone – it is one of the most common disorders seen by doctors, with an estimated 9-23% of people suffering worldwide. It is a term given to a collection of otherwise unexplained symptoms relating to a disturbance of the large bowel. Symptoms of IBS can vary between sufferers and can affect some people more severely than others.
New research for Love Your Gut Week 2017 shows that 14.6% of people in Northern Ireland and 10.3% of people in the Republic of Ireland suffer with IBS.
Key symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and spasms, often relieved by going to the toilet
- Diarrhoea, constipation or an alternation between the two
- Bloating or swelling of the abdomen
- Rumbling noises and excessive passage of wind
- Urgency (an urgent need to visit the toilet)
- Sharp pain felt low down inside the gut and rectum
- Sensation of incomplete bowel movement
It is important to see your GP if you think you have any of these symptoms in order for them to try and determine the cause. Some may find going to their GP about IBS symptoms daunting and embarrassing.
To help, Love Your Gut has put together tips to make it easier to approach your doctor. Christine Norton is a Professor of Clinical Nursing Research at King’s College, London and a Nurse Consultant at St Mark’s Hospital, Harrow. She sees hundreds of people a year with digestive problems and these are her words of advice on visiting your doctor:
- Rehearse what you want to say before you come in
- If you are concerned that you may not remember what you wanted to say, take some brief notes with you
- Remember you are not the first person to have a problem – we have treated and seen thousands before
- Your doctor or nurse will not be embarrassed, so you should try not to be
- Use words that you are comfortable with and use regularly
- Don’t be afraid to use everyday words like ‘poo’ and ‘bottom’
- Open conversations with lines such as: "I’ve noticed a change in my bowel movements" or "when I go to the toilet I am finding blood in my stools"
- The more honest you can be the better – even if you think you are being quite graphic
- No one likes being sworn at but if you can find no other word then use the four letter one beginning with s
- Remember the embarrassment is temporary but leaving a problem alone could lead to larger and more painful issues
To find out about The IBS Network's Self-Care Plan see: http://loveyourgut.com/love-your-gut-week/the-ibs-network-self-care-programme
The IBS Network is a UK charity supporting people with IBS and offers a wide range of information, advice and support to patients with IBS.