Even if you don't have it yourself, you're likely to have heard of one person with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A common factor linking many patients is their gender, with women making up two-thirds of IBS cases, according to experts. While there's currently no conclusive cause or cure, some doctors are trying out new techniques in a bid to banish the uncomfortable condition. And now, one thinks he may have found the answer to what causes IBS.
Common symptoms of IBS include bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, and stomach cramps. Some people may experience this several times a week; others less so. Many assume that certain foods trigger the onset of their symptoms (spicy meals are thought to be among the worst) but Dr. Rangan Chatterjee believes it's down to more than just diet.
"It's partly to do with the food we're eating, but also the gut-brain connection," he told Get The Gloss, explaining that it's important for anyone with IBS to monitor their stress levels. Mentioning the fact that IBS is only really an issue in the Western world, he added: "There's something within the lifestyle that we live, be it stress levels, gut bacteria, our food habits, or all of these combined that's making IBS cases soar. Many [IBS patients] also have anxiety problems and I'm convinced that's strongly linked."
Women in particular know how hard it is for doctors to work to find the root cause of a condition. People with digestive problems are often foisted off with medications and instructions to eliminate certain foods from their diet. And when you have a busy life juggling a career with friends and family, staying healthy can be the last thing on your mind.
Experts do thankfully have some idea how IBS works. It's simply a case of your gut not functioning properly. As Dr. Chatterjee explained, bugs in your gut should remain in your colon but for some reason are now moving to the small intestine. This small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (also known as SIBO) results in many of the symptoms associated with IBS.
Unfortunately, what doctors aren't sure of is why this change is happening. It could be down to the popularity of processed food in the Western world. But Dr. Chatterjee thinks it's all about lifestyle and how we are eating our food, rather than what we put in our mouths. If you are rushing your lunch at your desk and not giving your body time to digest food, it's not surprising that you may experience some adverse effects.
One of the techniques he has been using to treat IBS patients involves a breathing technique. As reported by Get The Gloss, this involves breathing in for three seconds, holding for four, and breathing out for five. The 3-4-5 method encourages the body and mind to relax, therefore aiding digestion, and is recommended to be carried out for a minute before every single meal.
Dr. Chatterjee also told the site that people should try to have at least 10 minutes of downtime a day and attempt a bit of exercise — even if it is only a short walk. A course of probiotics can also help. He recommended Symprove but be warned that this doesn't come cheap at £79 a month.
If you're looking for a diet that won't upset your gut, The IBS Network advises a balanced diet that avoids excess caffeine and fibre. The organisation also states that reducing all of the following may result in improvement: high fat dairy foods, fatty meat, milk (no more than half a pint a day), onions, pulses, and fruits that contain stones.
IBS probably isn't going to go away in a day. But making a few little changes to your lifestyle could really have a benefit. Just remember that it may not all be about the food you eat. Instead, reducing your stress levels could be the key. So sit back, relax, and (hopefully) watch your gut return to normal.