• Lucy Adie, Osteopath

Mid-Week MOT: That Irritable Bowel.....

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition of the digestive system which commonly effects twice as many women as men. 20% of us will suffer with it at some point in our lives.

IBS tends to run in the family although it is not genetically passed on. You are more likely to develop it if you have a parent or sibling who is affected.

The disease is very individual and has a host of symptoms and triggers. This article will give an overview of the condition and is not meant to be diagnostic in nature. Please see your GP or practice nurse if you are worried about your health.

What is IBS?

IBS is a disturbance in gut transit or motility which can cause either diarrhoea or constipation or a mixture of both at different times. The gut is overly sensitive and can be prone to mirror your emotions, becoming reactive and unhappy.

IBS is diagnosed by eliminating everything else that could be wrong when you present with some or all of the following symptoms:

Abdominal pain & cramping

Bloating & flatulence

Diarrhoea and/or constipation may have mucus present

Feeling of urgency or fullness after opening bowels

Less common symptoms:





Bladder problems

Back ache

These symptoms can occur with varying degrees of severity and come on in bouts from hours to days in duration.

The risk factors for developing IBS can be gastroenteritis, trauma (emotional or physical), and overuse of antibiotics (upsetting the natural gut bacteria).

The causes of IBS are not known but some doctors think there may be a signal disruption in the gut/brain connection, bile acid malabsorption, increased gut sensitivity, food and stress triggers. Foods commonly thought to cause symptoms include chocolate, caffeine, bread, fatty/spicy food and alcohol.

What else can it be?

As IBS is diagnosed by exclusion, it is important to be examined and investigated for other more serious diseases. These include, diverticular disease, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD) such as crohns and ulceraltive colitis, bowel or ovarian cancers and polycystic ovaries.

Red flag symptoms to be watchful for include -

Bleeding from the anus, night pain, constant unremitting abdominal pain, sudden change in bowel habits, weight loss or fever.

IBS is not a serious condition but its effects can cause a large degree of emotional distress and be lifestyle limiting. Sufferers usually need to stay near a toilet and can be in some degree of discomfort and distress.

When you present with the symptoms of bowel dysfunction, your GP will usually request some blood tests and a stool sample to analyse for infection and a substance called calprotectin which is present in IBD. You may need to have a colonoscopy (rectal camera) or x-rays.

Symptoms usually have to be present for more than 6 months to be classified as IBS. It is sensible to keep a food and stress diary to identify possible triggers.


Diarrhoea can be controlled by loperamide (anti motility) type drugs, bulk forming laxatives, good hydration and a decrease in dietary insoluble fibre such as wholegrains, bran, nuts and seeds.

Constipation is treated by increasing the amount of soluble fibre in the diet such as oats, rye, fruit, root vegetables and golden linseeds.

A low FODMAP diet is recommended to reduce bloating and the associated abdominal pain. This is a diet low in foods such as animal milk, wheat and beans, that are not easily digestible and so sit in the gut and ferment, causing gas. (FODMAP - fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.)

It is recommended that patients should get at least 150 mins of strenuous exercise a week and drink plenty of fluids. Try to eat regularly and don't miss out meals.

Probiotics have been shown to balance the gut bacteria that can be destroyed by antibiotics.

Stress management is very important and some anti anxiety drugs can help with this.

Tricyclic antidepressant medication works for some people as does acupuncture and other complimentary therapies such as reflexology.

It is important to remember that IBS is NOT known to be a precursor for bowel cancer.

For further information visit the following websites:

For Osteopathy in High Wycombe and beyond, call Lucy from OsteoFusion on 07833 321604 or visit

Thanks for reading.

#highwycombeosteopaths #IBS #irritablebowelsyndrome #digestiveupset #guttransit #abdominalpain #bloating #diarrhoea #constipation #inflammatoryboweldisorder #FODMAPdiet



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