What is IBS?
IBS is an abbreviation for "Irritable Bowel Syndrome", which in English means hypersensitive or irritable bowel. It means that you have a disorder of the intestine that affects its function and sensation. IBS is a chronic disease that can come and go for periods of time and unfortunately has no specific treatment in healthcare today. It is simply not known what causes IBS, but it is a harmless disease that is unfortunately becoming increasingly common, especially among young people.
Even if you don't know why IBS occurs, you know roughly what is happening in your body. IBS is thought to be caused by changes in the gut where the function and interaction of the gut muscles and nerves become imbalanced. The interaction between the brain and the gut via nerves is also affected. Stress, anxiety and worry can trigger IBS symptoms but are not considered a cause.
Common symptoms of IBS are:
- Reassuring pain in the stomach
- Pain (or less pain) after eating
- A lot of gases
- Irregular toilet habits
Other symptoms may include nausea, sweating, palpitations, headache, fatigue and stomach upset. To be diagnosed with IBS, you must have had the symptoms for more than 3 consecutive months. There is no known cure for IBS, but there are lots of things you can do yourself to relieve symptoms and reduce discomfort. It may take some experimentation but it will be worth it.
Tips for those with IBS:
- Write a food diary to discover what makes you better and worse
- Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse - try it out
- Examples of foods that make many people feel worse are spices, fatty foods, coffee, alcohol, onions, legumes, cabbage, sweeteners, dairy products (lactose)
- Drink plenty of water, preferably 1.5-2 litres per day to avoid constipation and aid digestion
- Try eating according to FODMAP with the help of a dietician or doctor
- Eat small portions often
- Eat slowly and chew your food well
- Reduce the stress in your everyday life
- Go to the toilet regularly
- Exercise regularly
- Try lactic acid bacteria supplementation
- Chickweed gel - relieves several IBS symptoms
Do you want expert help?
The company Belly Balance is run by dietician Sofia Antonsson and specializes in stomach health and IBS. Sofia is the one who implemented the dietary treatment FODMAP in Swedish healthcare. Belly Balance offers free IBS treatment digitally and if you are unsure whether you have IBS, there is also a test on their website.
You can also get help from the County Council. If you have a diagnosis of IBS, the county council offers a training course with a dietician where you get useful information about IBS and many tips on how to help your body deal with it. FODMAP, which we mentioned above, stands for "Fermentable, Oligo- Di and Monosaccharides and Sugar Alcohols (Polyols)" and is a diet that can relieve IBS symptoms. It comes from Australia where it has been researched by doctors and dieticians since 2005. FODMAPs exclude fermentable carbohydrates that can cause stomach problems in IBS. It can be a bit tricky at first, but it has helped many people and may be worth trying.