What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is common functional bowel disorder that impacts 9% of people with approximately a third of people reporting IBS with diarrhoea, and a third with mixed bowel habits [1].

The above figures are really difficult to verify due to the variety of diagnostic criteria, and can therefore vary massively from one country to the next, with places like Mexico reporting a 35.5% prevalence figure, and the general Latin American prevalence being around 17% [2].

IBS impacts the digestive system and causes symptoms such as:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

These symptoms can come and go. Sometimes lasting just a day or two, sometimes days, weeks, or even years at a time.

IBS is typically a lifelong condition that can result in restrictive living. Some people are fearful of going out and not having access to a toilet. Some report quite significant gut and abdominal pain which reduces engagement with exercise and social activities.

There is no known cure. Some people use the FODMAP diet, others make other dietary changes. Lifestyle changes can improve IBS and those that have been diagnosed with treatment-resistant IBS can benefit from gut-focused hypnosis [3].

The big frustration with IBS is that the cause is unknown. And potentially different in different people. Some link it to sensitivity to different foods, nerves within the gut, stress, family history. It is often diagnosed through elimination of other possible explanations (diagnosis by elimination).