Do you sometimes rush to the bathroom on waking? Does taking your first bite of breakfast cause you painful abdominal cramping, gas and bloating? Then you may have irritable bowel syndrome.
This common condition of the digestive tract affects at least one in ten in the UK. Yet it could be many more as people often don’t seek treatment. More women than men have the condition, or perhaps more women seek help. Symptoms often start in a person’s 20s. Perhaps after a gastrointestinal infection or abdominal surgery.
Doctors can use several means to rule out other potential causes of symptoms. But people may be afraid to seek treatment due to invasive tests.
If symptoms appeared at least six months before, then the Rome III diagnostic criteria can be used. These criteria describe the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. These are recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort on at least three days per month in the past three months. Two or more of the following must also be present:
- pain relieved by a bowel movement
- onset related to a change in stool frequency
- onset related to a change in the appearance of the stool
If the criteria are met then irritable bowel syndrome can be diagnosed.
The main symptoms are abdominal pain and cramping. With diarrhoea, constipation or alternating constipation and diarrhoea. Other symptoms often reported are bloating and wind. Symptoms can come and go and they can last for a few days or for several months at a time. They may gradually improve, but sometimes irritable bowel syndrome is a life-long condition.
The Bristol Stool chart can help to define stool form.
The condition is not dangerous or life-threatening but it can drastically impact quality of life. For some, the condition can be extremely debilitating, with almost unbearable pain. The symptoms can make life a misery. Leading to feelings of worry and isolation. Anxiety and depression are frequent additional symptoms. In the past, these problems led to the condition being thought of as all in the mind. Particularly because there are no structural changes to the bowel.
However, over the last few years researchers have discovered a cause for many cases. They discovered an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines of sufferers. These bacteria cause food in the intestines to ferment, producing gas responsible for symptoms. The bacteria can also affect the gut wall, changing the speed at which food moves through the bowel.
If you suspect or have a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. Find a practitioner that can detect and treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. A simple breath test can detect the condition.
Herbal antimicrobial treatments are as effective as antibiotics. A medical herbalist will be able to prescribe appropriate herbs.
After elimination of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth you will want to prevent a recurrence. You might need further help to improve your gut health. Diet and lifestyle changes should help to heal your gut and make your gut symptoms a thing of the past.
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