What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the gut. The cause is not known. Symptoms can be quite variable and include abdominal pain, bloating, and sometimes bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation. Symptoms tend to come and go .IBS is twice as common in women as in men.
How it affected me
I have suffered with ‘stomach problems’ on and off for years.
It has been noticeably worse over the last few years as I was going through the peri menopause.
I get bad pains, horrible gas and by the end of the day my belly is bloated and distended!
On top of the other peri-menpause symptoms it’s not good!! It is very frustrating and sometimes plain embarrassing 🙁
Is the menopause and IBS linked? Research is inconclusive.
Research done by UNC Centre for Functional GI & Motility disorders showed that IBS symptoms was worse around the time of menstruation (70%).
“This study aimed to examine changes in IBS symptoms associated with events that alter female sex hormones. 276 women (mean age 37.6, range 16-66).
Results showed that 70%of pre-menopausal participants reported worsened IBS during menses (vs 14.7% unchanged and 15.3& improved)
IBS symptoms improved during pregnancy twice as often (49%) as worsening (23%)
IBS worsened after menopause in 57% of the women (vs. 34% unchanged and 9% improved).
However, postmenopausal women were not different from pre-menopausal women in overall IBS severity or abdominal pain. Pain and IBS severity were not significantly affected by hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women or by oral contraceptives in premenopausal women.”
So it would seem that fluctuations in hormones do effect IBS problems, not always for the worse. It must be hormone related as IBS is twice as common in women as it is in men
What makes it worse?
Some foods make my symptoms worse. Wheat products and nuts can have an effect but not always.
There must be an intolerance but doesn’t seem to be a pattern which is very frustrating!
I can get very constipated which in my opinion is to do with a sluggish thyroid.
I keep a food (keep a log of stress, exercise and any other factors) diary and see if I can see any triggers. Doing this also helps me be more mindful of everything I shove in my mouth!!
Oats sometimes seem to help with bloating and wind. I sometimes eat 30gs with a few spoons of natural bio yogurt and a handful of berries.
The FODMAP diet seems to be really helping some people. It’s not a catchy name but FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are types of carbohydrates that aren’t easily broken down and absorbed by the gut.
The link below shows a list of foods and how it works.
Eating plenty of fruit (not too much fruit) and veggies will help your fibre (soluble and insoluble) intake which keeps the bowels regular.
I eat a diet high in veggies and some fruit but I still need to take a psyllium supplement to help keep me regular.
Too much fibre can make symptoms worse so make any adjustments slowly.
Without doubt stress makes my symptoms worse. If I Have been going through a few days of stress the symptoms get worse a few days later.
Start adding some zen into your life. Deep breathing, relaxation, delegation, fresh air, walking, whatever helps you.
A daily practice of even 5 minutes relaxation has shown to have HUGE benefits to overall well-being and can help reduce stress and ease IBS symptoms.
There is a definite relationship between to brain, nervous system and organs. You have only got to experience butterflies in the belly followed by the urge to go to the loo when you are nervous to experience this!
I have always been a fast eater which I know hasn’t helped. Try a minute of deep breathing to help relax you (and your gut) before eating.
I now practice chewing my food REALLY well, this is the first stage of digestion. This means that I naturally eat much slower which means I don’t tend to overeat.
Eating too much at a meal makes me feel worse.
Keep hydrated with (warm in winter) water, herbal teas and the water content in fruits and veggies. Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger, they are very similar signals. Hydration will help keep the digestive system moving smoothly.
Probiotic and digestive enzymes
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that live in the guts. There is alot of research that shows that probiotics can help with IBS. Buy a good quality one and use it for 4 weeks and see if it makes an improvement. Rotate the brands/types regularly.
Sometimes the stomach does not produce enough enzymes and supplementation can help.
The body loves to move and any type of movement will help keep the body’s systems working well. Regular exercise reduces stress and can help keep your bowels regular
GO!! when you need to
Listen to your body. When you get the urge to go to the toilet do not ignore it. I think women are bad at this. Women seem to have strange public toilet phobias (i used to hate going for a poo anywhere but at home). If we ignore the urge then our body becomes desensitised to it which may lead to further complications.
There is no one cure fix all with IBS. Don’t try to change everything all at once. For me personally chewing, slowing down and meditation are helping.
You could try colonic therapy, acupuncture, kinesiology and other therapeutic practices.
You have to find what works for you. In my experience the gut takes time to heal and respond to treatment so don’t give up.
Wishing you a happy belly
What is IBS?