Part 1: What even is IBS?!

Here, I will take a leaf from Radio 1’s book and play a little game of Real or No Real…play along at home as I take you on a fact-filled journey into IBS!

  1. It’s to do with being irritable.
  2. IBS is the same as IBD.
  3. IBS means you have constipation or diarrhoea.
  4. IBS is all in your head.
  5. IBS isn’t serious.
  6. IBS is manageable.

Cast your votes…

  1. No real. It stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but this is because your bowel is easily irritated, not because you are! However, I find – and I’m sure others will agree – that I’m often more irritable when my bowels aren’t playing ball. Anyone in chronic pain won’t always be smiling!
  2. No real. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the umbrella term for Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis which are serious inflammatory and inherited diseases. They present, are diagnosed and managed differently to IBS, because they are caused by very different things. However, it’s one of our key differential diagnoses (i.e. what else might this be) and has to be ruled out. Find out more about IBD here.
  3. Real. Even though they seem like polar opposites, it’s common for people with IBS to experience both and this is quite a classic symptom that might make your GP suspect you have IBS. Some people can be more prone to going one way or the other and so are often diagnosed as C-IBS or D-IBS, depending on whether C or D is more predominant.
  4. No real. Just because scientists aren’t sure at the moment about what causes IBS doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist: your constipation is real, your diarrhoea is real, so is your bloating, your pain and all the anxiety that accompanies these things. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!  Yes, stress is known to make IBS worse, but I doubt anyone would tell that you stress isn’t a real thing.
  5. Hmm…real? No real? I’ve thrown a bit of a curve ball here. It’s not serious in that it’s got a great prognosis (i.e. it’s not terminal thankfully!) but it is serious in that it can have a massive impact on your life, your relationships, your mood and your work. For me, my IBS contributed massively to my anxiety: I used to be terrified of going on long journeys or not finding the toilet on time, and I know I’m not alone in that. Yes, it may not be life-limiting but it can be life-defining. Don’t let it define your life like that! Which leads me to…
  6. REAL! There are lots of people out there living with IBS and doing it well! Find what works for you. My recipe for success is keeping a relatively low-FODMAP diet, getting regular good nights’ sleeps, not being afraid to use medication, like Buscopan, if I need to and exercise. Remember: shit happens!



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