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Irritable Bowel

What is IBS?

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a movement disorder of the gut.  Food is moved along the 30ft of intestines by muscle waves, called peristalsis.

IBS occurs when these waves lose their normal rhythm and begin to cramp or “spasm”, contracting too tightly and causing abdominal pain.

IBS is known as a “syndrome” because sufferers experience a number of different symptoms at different times and often infrequently.  Due to this, correct diagnosis can take a long time.

IBS is a common disorder of the bowel.  It is thought that part of the reason behind this is the fact that our diet is low in fibre, high in processed foods and that we commonly lack enough regular exercise.

It is important to note that IBS is in no way life threatening and is not connected to cancer, Crohn’s Disease or any other serious bowel disease, despite the similarity of some of the symptoms.


These vary from person to person and you may experience one, a few or all of the following more common symptoms:

  1. Pain: most sufferers have abdominal pain.  It can be experienced immediately after eating or within 2-3 hours, and may be relived by bowel movement or passing wind.
  2. Bloating: most sufferers feel bloated and may have to loosen their clothing.  Some sufferers cannot finish meals because their stomach feels too full.  A rumbling stomach is also common.
  3. Constipation and Diarrhoea: these are common symptoms and some people can suffer with both.  Strangely, constipation is more common in women.  Mucus can sometimes be present on the faeces and occasionally may be passed on its own.  Additionally, there may be a feeling that the bowels have not been completely emptied even when the faeces have been passed.

In addition to these main symptoms there are some other less common symptoms including feeling queasy, headaches, vomiting, belching, back pain, indigestion and heartburn.  However, these are only secondary symptoms and, if present without one or more of the main symptoms mentioned above, usually means you do not have IBS

Read more about IBS.

Points for Self Help

  1. Allow yourself ample time for journeys and tasks – rushing will only bring on stress.
  2. Always make time for meals and eat slowly.
  3. Try learning how to relax.
  4. Stick to a balanced high fibre, low sugar diet, eat regular meals and drink plenty of fluids.
  5. Take regular exercise.
  6. A warm bath can be relaxing, particularly if you add some aromatherapy oils.

If these self help points do not help your symptoms, there are some medicines which can be prescribed.  You should make an appointment to discuss this with a GP.

Remember you can also contact the surgery for advice. A clinician will be available during out triage time, Monday to Friday, 8.00am – 4:00pm.