This month is the very un glamorous sounding 'IBS Awareness Month'.
IBS really is just a way of describing a group of digestive symptoms when your doctor cannot make a positive diagnosis for the cause of your symptoms having ruled out the usual suspects - such as coeliacs or chrons disease.
Without identifying a cause makes treatment difficult with most doctors offering fibre supplements and antidepressants as a treatment. Consequently I'm sure there are lots of individuals out there experiencing painful and often embarrassing digestive symptoms with no hope of getting better. There are also probably a few people too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with their doctor.
In my opinion there is always a root cause for digestive problems and, whilst it can sometimes be tricky finding out what that is, it is worth the detective work to put together an effective treatment plan. It's also important not to put up with digestive problems as if you're not digesting your food properly this can cause other health problems.
So if your doctor sends you away with an IBS diagnosis and some peppermint capsules what can you do to help yourself?
- According to a recent Patrick Holford newsletter (www.patrickholford.com) 40% of IBS sufferers benefit from cutting out a food they are intolerant too, so it's worth cutting out the most common gut irritants (gluten, dairy and caffeine) for two weeks to see if you get an improvements. Also keeping a food diary including your symptoms can help identify problem foods.
- Cutting out sugar from your diet can also provide insight - a dramatic improvement in symptoms points to a likely imbalance in gut bacteria.
- Eating a diet lower in additives and processed foods can also help as these artificial foods can be hard to digest.
- If you can't pinpoint the problem and need further help a nutritional therapist should be able to help identify the causes of your symptoms and put together an effective treatment plan.