Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is IBS?

Whilst we were at the Health and Wellbeing show we realised that lots of people don’t know what IBS is.

As it happens, we have decided that following our annual conference in June this year, our focus and theme for 2012 will be IBS. So, if you are suffering from IBS, please read on and see a list of foods that can help and hinder IBS symptoms.

Linda and I recently went to the IBS network annual conference to listen to Professor Nick Read who is coming to our conference to give us a lecture on IBS and the new health care plan they are launching.

Prof Read is a gastroenterologist and psychotherapist and has a passion for IBS.

It was reassuring for me to know that all the advice I give to clients about IBS, he agrees with.

I have a big interest in IBS as if often relates both to the physical side of your body as well as the psychology and how the two interact.

Everything that your body does starts in your brain. If you want to move your foot or your hand, it’s a brain message that makes it happen.

When you are asleep, your heart keeps beating and your breathing continues along with all the other functions your body needs to do to keep you alive and well.

Once you start to chew your food, your brain recognises that digestion is starting and starts preparing your digestive system.

Did you know that you burn more calories digesting food than any other body activity.

That must mean, it’s a big job!

So, in order to do it properly and efficiently, your body wants to concentrate on doing digestion, not being asked to do all sorts of other things.

The trouble is we all have too much to do and never enough time to do it. So often we eat on the run or whilst working.

We forget to give our gut a chance to work properly and then complain when it hurts. Your body speaks on a different language to ours, and pain is a really good way to attract attention. With an irritable bowel it means your bowel isn’t working properly, but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, so in the same way as you can get cramp in your leg or a twitch in your eye, there’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just not doing its job properly.

Your nervous system is responsible for digesting your food and because it is such a big job your body wants to do that and nothing much else. If you are doing lots of other things at the same time the active side of your nervous system becomes more dominant and so digestive action is compromised.

That is a bit simplistic and it is not to say that IBS is an insignificant condition. Indeed people are often in hospital on very strong painkillers and being checked for other serious diseases because the symptoms can be so powerful, and it is really important to rule out other inflammatory bowel diseases before being diagnosed with an irritable bowel.

Stress of course has a really big part to play in IBS and it is important to recognise that stress covers lots of things. It doesn’t have to be bad either, it can be good stress such as getting married, going on holiday, being excited about something. But it all impacts on your digestion.

You wouldn’t eat a big Sunday lunch and then run a marathon would you? But remember mental activity is just as powerful at interfering with your digestive system as physical activity.

So give it some help. 

  • Stop working and doing other things when you are eating.
  • Take time to eat, chew and digest your food properly.
  • Don’t drink lots of fluid on top of your food. It will make you really bloated and uncomfortable.
  • Relax after eating.

With IBS, very often, the patient has, for many years, had the following symptoms.

  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal bloating
  • burping
  • excessive flatulence
  • constipation/or diarrhoea
  • urgency for the toilet
  • incontinence if the toilet is not nearby
  • the sensation of an incomplete bowel movement

There are several things you can do things to ease your symptoms. The latest treatment is something called FODMAPS

If so, have a look at the FODMAP diet, recommended by the NHS and IBS medics.

FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols. (That’s enough to give anyone indigestion!)

Just consume the food/drink in the green section, and eliminate those in the red section. Give it some time to take effect, it won’t happen overnight.

Let me know if you think it is effective or not at my email address: at

Please click on link below for full colour FODMAP.

Remember – Bowel cancer is the 2nd biggest cancer and so any symptoms need to be taken seriously. If you have any doubt please visit your GP.

It is important to stress that any sudden change in bowel habits:

  • bleeding from the bottom
  • sudden rapid weight loss
  • unexplained tiredness
  • sudden onset diarrhoea/constipation
  • a feeling of fullness in the rectum (back passage) for three or more weeks
  • able to feel a palpable lump in the abdomen
  • constant, unexplained pain anywhere in the abdomen

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