IBS is a complex disorder and often involves many facets of someone’s lifestyle and medical health. Consulting an Accredited Practising Dietitian will not only improve your food intake to address your symptoms but also particular aspects of your lifestyle that may be contributing to your IBS symptoms. Some of these are listed below.
Stress and Anxiety
Most people with IBS find that their symptoms worsen or are more frequent at times of increased anxiety or stress. This stress can affect the nerves in the bowel for susceptible people. Chronic stress can also divert blood supply away from the digestive system, resulting in less effective function.
Lack of Sleep
There is evidence suggesting that a lack of sleep and increased IBS symptoms are linked. The strongest link is between a poor night’s sleep and an increase in morning symptoms, although it does also appear to have a small impact on the evening symptoms the next day. However, increased stress and anxiety related to a lack of sleep may also be a factor at play rather than lack of sleep in itself.
Regular physical activity has been shown to improve mood and reduce symptoms in the majority of IBS sufferers. Although it may help in the long-term it is not uncommon for vigorous activity to cause IBS symptoms, with up to 50% of athletes reporting that gastrointestinal symptoms affect them negatively during training and competition. Once again, the low FODMAP diet has been shown to reduce the impact of these symptoms.
Some medications (e.g. antibiotics, antacids, painkillers) and supplements (e.g. iron) can cause gut irritation and lead to constipation or diarrhoea. Discussing with your doctor about the ideal way to manage this would be the best approach.
Post-infectious IBS occurs following the continuation of gut symptoms following from gastritis, food poisoning or infection. The likelihood of these continuing once the illness or infection improves will depend on the duration and severity of the original gastritis infection along with other factors such as age, genetics and stress/anxiety levels.
SIBO is an acronym for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Typically, the amount of bacteria found within the small intestine is quite low, however in people with SIBO there is an excessive amount of bacteria residing in the small intestine. The evidence is mixed on this topic, but for those with unresolved symptoms particularly gas and bloating there is a link between SIBO and IBS. So it is worth discussing with your GP or dietitian.
The complex nature of IBS often requires the consideration of many aspects of someone’s life, from their nutrition to their overall lifestyle choices in order to achieve symptomatic relief. If you are suffering from symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea or excess bloating get in touch with both your GP and an Accredited Practising Dietitian skilled up in the management of gastrointestinal disorders. There are several approaches and multiple considerations in the management of IBS, so working with a team of professionals who can develop a management plan suited for your particular needs is going to be the key to improving your quality of life.