Ask anyone diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and they'll tell you life pre-diagnosis is the worst — even its name is horrible, irritable bowel? I mean, c'mon?! But all jokes aside, it's a serious illness that affects 2.2 million Aussies, with many more yet to be diagnosed suffering from symptoms consistent with IBS. It's important to know that the symptoms definitely aren't normal, or "just a part of life" as a lot of people assume — help is available, but it comes down to being diagnosed first. According to dietician Chloe McLeod, IBS usually develops at a young age but the symptoms don't present themselves until years later when the sufferer is in their 20s or 30s.
If you're concerned that you (or someone you know) might be suffering from IBS, keep reading for the signs . . .
You Suffer Uncomfortable Bloating Often
So you start the day with a flat stomach, but by the end of the day you feel and look about six months pregnant? This isn't normal. According to Chloe, bloating is a common, and very uncomfortable, symptom of IBS, with many sufferers finding their belly is distended and painful by the end of the day. "When we ingest our IBS trigger foods, we are causing irritation to our gut wall and lining," says Chloe. "This leads to the trigger foods not being digested properly, so they begin to ferment in our bowels causing an increase in gas, which is why bloating is one of the most common signs of IBS."
You Regularly Rush to the Bathroom — Or You Don't Go at All
Urgent bowel movements are another common theme for those with IBS, but it can also be the complete opposite. "Some people often feel constipated and not quite finished when going to the bathroom," says Chloe. "Because with IBS your gut lining is compromised, the reabsorption of water can be inconsistent and you might often experience diarrhoea, constipation or both."
Gas and IBS unfortunately (and embarrassingly) go hand in hand, so if you feel it happens a little too often, it's time to visit the GP.
The Symptoms Are Even Worse When You're Stressed
For people suffering from IBS, stress can often exacerbate the symptoms, all thanks to the brain-gut connection. Chloe suggests stress management to help with IBS. "I often recommend to my clients to embrace yoga, meditation and exercise to alleviate stress and to relax their minds and bodies," says Chloe.
If These Symptoms Are All Too Familiar . . .
It's time to pay a visit to your doctor. Living with these symptoms isn't recommended, or easy to do. With the help of experts you can work towards alleviating the pain that comes with IBS. Chloe admits working out what your IBS triggers are will make it less stressful at mealtime, meaning no more of those urgent bathroom breaks or painful bloating. "The best way to do this is to eliminate high FODMAP foods from your diet, as these are the most likely to trigger symptoms," says Chloe. "Then, working through a process of challenges to determine which FODMAPs are your triggers is recommended." Doing this with an expert is always advised.