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What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). It is characterized by a group of symptoms, including abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, and changes in bowel habits such as diarrhoea, constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that may have periods of flare-ups and remission.

The exact cause of IBS is not known, but it is believed to be a combination of several factors. These factors may include abnormal muscle contractions in the intestines, increased sensitivity to pain in the digestive system, changes in the gut microbiome, and disturbances in the communication between the brain and the gut.

Some common triggers for IBS symptoms include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, and gastrointestinal infections. However, triggers can vary from person to person, and it's important to identify individual triggers through a process of elimination and keeping a symptom diary.

There is no specific test to diagnose IBS, so doctors usually rely on a combination of symptoms, medical history, and physical examination to make a diagnosis. In some cases, additional tests such as blood tests, stool tests, or imaging studies may be done to rule out other conditions.

The treatment of IBS focuses on managing symptoms and improving the quality of life. It often involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, stress management techniques, and, in some cases, medications. Dietary modifications may include identifying and avoiding trigger foods, increasing fibre intake, and considering a low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet.

If you suspect you have IBS or are experiencing symptoms, it is important to consult with your GP. They can provide a proper diagnosis and work with you to develop an individualised treatment plan based on your specific needs.

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