Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
You may find the painful stomach cramps of IBS ease after going to the toilet and opening your bowels.
What causes IBS?
The cause of IBS is unknown, but several hypotheses have been proposed. The risk of developing IBS increases sixfold after acute gastrointestinal infection. Post-infection, further risk factors are young age, prolonged fever, anxiety, and depression. Publications suggesting the role of brain-gut “axis” appeared in the 1990s, such as the study “Brain-gut response to stress and cholinergic stimulation in IBS” published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 1993.A 1997 study published in Gut magazine suggested that IBS was associated with a “derailing of the brain-gut axis.” Psychological factors may be important in the aetiology of IBS.
When to see your GP
Visit your GP if you think you have IBS. They will want to rule out other illnesses, such as an infection, coeliac disease (a digestive condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten), or a chronic inflammation of the gut.
The mind-body or brain-gut interactions has been proposed for irritable bowel syndrome and is gaining increasing research attention. For some patients psychological therapies may help with symptoms. Cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnosis have been found to be the most beneficial. Hypnosis can improve mental well-being and cognitive behavioural therapy can provide psychological coping strategies for dealing with distressing symptoms as well as help suppress thoughts and behaviours that increase the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.Cognitive behavioural therapy has been found to improve symptoms in a number of studies. Relaxation therapy has also been found to be helpful.
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