So what is IBS?
You can have IBS for years and never know. I had it for a long while but always dismissed it as some sort of stomach cramps, until they began to become regular and eventually it became the norm. At the time, little was known about IBS and it’s symptoms which made it harder to talk about and for people to realise it needs to be dealt with. Thanks to technology, intelligent researchers and people speaking up, we now know that this is not something you have to put up with and IBS is now considered a serious condition”.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be described as a group of symptoms (syndrome), which mostly come from the bowel (the large intestine). Importantly, none of the gut shows any signs of disease in IBS (this is a positive thing!) but the way in which the gut functions is altered. Remember that the gut is a muscular tube, which contracts and relaxes in waves, in order to push food through the digestive system.
In IBS, the motility (movement) of the gut changes, causing symptoms and changes in bowel movements (pooing!).
If the motility is sped up (the contractions get faster), you can experience symptoms like diarrhoea and needing to empty your bowels urgently, as food and liquids move through your digestive system faster than normal. If motility slows down (fewer contractions), you can experience constipation and bloating.
To say the bowel is irritated is quite a good description as it can feel like that - but it doesn’t really cover exactly what’s going on. More recently IBS has been renamed a functional gut syndrome, which is more helpful, as is describes a gut which is functioning differently to normal, which is exactly right!
So just remember - in IBS, there’s no disease, but gut is functioning differently to normal, causing symptoms like bloating and tummy pain.