Bloating and 4 other IBS warnings signs – and 7 tips to ease agonising condition

Health

Bloating and 4 other IBS warnings signs – and 7 tips to ease agonising condition
Bloating and 4 other IBS warnings signs – and 7 tips to ease agonising condition

WHETHER it’s that time of the month or you’ve just eaten something you don’t agree with, none of us are strangers to bloating.

But in some cases, bloating can be suggestive of something much more serious.

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Three-quarters of people are unaware they have IBS.[/caption]

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects around 15 per cent of people in the UK.

But the common condition is hugely underdiagnosed – with experts believing around 75 per cent of people are unaware they have the debilitating illness.

This is because the symptoms of IBS can be vague and can often be mistaken for other conditions like stress of lactose intolerance.

According to new research, over half (55 per cent) of British women find talking about bloating and their general gut health “embarrassing”.

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This suggests many women could be avoiding going to their GP to get their symptoms looked at.

Speaking on behalf of Symprove – a probiotic supplement – GP Doctor Sarah Jarvis, clinical director for Patient.info, shares the five signs you might have undiagnosed IBS…

1. Stomach pain

One of the most common and impactful symptoms of IBS is recurring abdominal pain.


Dr Sarah said: “The pain usually comes and goes, but the severity, length of episodes, and area of the stomach affected often vary.

“If you think you might be suffering from IBS, keep an eye on whether the pain starts to ease after going to the toilet, or after passing wind, as this is a common experience amongst IBS sufferers.”

2. Bloating

Regular bloating could be another sign that you are suffering with IBS, the expert said.

“The bloating will almost always be non-existent in the morning, but will significantly worsen throughout the day.

“It’s worth noting that occasional bloating is completely normal for women to experience, but if it becomes more regular and increasingly uncomfortable, it’s worth seeking advice from your GP,” she added.

3. Toilet

It’s worth keeping your eye on your bowel habits, as a change in these could signal symptoms of IBS.

“Bear in mind that these changes can be entirely unpredictable and therefore difficult to identify,” Dr Sarah explained.

“Some may have episodes of constipation, others may experience diarrhoea,  whilst some might alternate between the two.

“If any of these apply to you, also look out for the consistency of your stool, as hard and lumpy poo, as well as loose and watery stool, are both common symptoms,” she said.

4. Control

IBS can also present itself through a lack of control when going to the toilet.

“This can include either needing to strain when passing stool, or experiencing a sudden urge to open your bowels, and rush to the toilet,” she explained.

A lesser known symptom that many are not aware of is the feeling of not having completely emptied your bowels after going to the toilet 

“This is a common sensation those with IBS will experience and not something to ignore,” Dr Sarah added.

5. Eating

If any of the above symptoms are aggravated or made worse after consuming food, this is a key indicator that you could be suffering with IBS.

“This is particularly true of immediate bloating or a sudden urge to rush to the toilet.

“It’s worth keeping a note of the foods or food groups that cause these flare ups so you can pinpoint the changes you need to make to your diet,” the medic explained.

Bloating is one of the most common, and noticeable, symptoms of IBS, and one that is particularly prevalent in women.

In fact, recent research conducted by Symprove, shows that 60 per cent of women agreed feeling bloated is one of the biggest barriers to feeling body confident.

If this sounds like you, here are seven changes you can make to your diet to help alleviate bloating…

1. Hydration

Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a healthier gut.

“It’s a common misconception among IBS sufferers that cutting down water intake will prevent bloating,” the medic said.

“However it’s important to know that not consuming enough fluid can trigger constipation, which in turn will worsen any bloating you might be experiencing,” she explained.

The NHS Eatwell guide recommends around two litres of water a day, which will keep you sufficiently hydrated.

2. Fizzy drinks

It’s important to make sure you are staying hydrated with the right liquids.

“Fizzy drinks, in particular, can be a common cause of bloating due to the gas they contain, which can easily get trapped in the digestive system,” Dr Sarah explained.

To help alleviate a bloated stomach, try reducing your fizzy drink intake and replace them with water or still drinks instead. 

3. Caffeine

It’s well known by medics that IBS sufferers are often extremely sensitive to caffeine.

Consuming caffeine can worsen stomach pains and bloating, as well as acting as a catalyst for moving bowels, particularly for those with IBS.

“If you think caffeine is having this impact on you, try switching to decaffeinated versions of tea and coffee for a couple of weeks and monitor any changes to your stomach or toilet habits,” the expert said.

4. Alcohol

As far as it can be, consuming alcohol has been shown to irritate the gut, which can then lead to a flare up of IBS symptoms.

“If you notice alcohol to be one of your triggers – for example, you might experience cramping or bloating – it’s worth reducing your intake or cutting it out completely,” Dr Sarah said.

Beer, in particular, can be a trigger as it’s made from fermentable carbohydrates and contains fizzy carbon dioxide, which will aggravate IBS and bloating.

5. Wholemeal foods

“If you’re prone to diarrhoea, try cutting down on insoluble fibre,” Dr Sarah said.

Foods high in insoluble fibre include wholegrain rice, breads, and pasta.

Alternatively, if your issue is with constipation try increasing your intake of these foods – both oats and linseed are great ingredients to look out for.

6. Probiotics 

“Feed your gut with probiotics; friendly bacteria which help digest food without creating gas,” the doctor explained.

Live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, and kimchi are all good sources and relatively easy to incorporate into your diet.

You can also try a course of probiotic supplements. 

7. Prebiotics

“It’s important to make sure you’re including prebiotic foods in your diet,” Dr Sarah said.

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Great examples are bananas, apples, artichokes, and asparagus – all of which help to feed healthy bacteria in your gut.

“It’s likely you will have to experiment to find which prebiotic foods suit you best, as everyone’s gut is different!” she added.

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