IBS is a life-limiting condition. Here’s why.
If you are living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you know it is far more than a slightly embarrassing inconvenience. Contrary to the unsympathetic opinions of many who have never experienced it, IBS often has a major impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Do you suffer accidents and live in fear every time you leave the house? Have you been on a date and dashed to the loo between courses? Do colleagues ask where on earth you’ve been because you’ve spent so much time in the bathroom? Do you memorise and plan your trips based on where you know the bathrooms are?
Having IBS means bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain. It means not being able to go to the toilet for days, and then suffering unpredictable bouts of diarrhoea. It can cause intense anxiety, limit your social life, damage your confidence, and impact your career and relationships.
In this blog, we explore the realities of living with the condition, how to manage symptoms, and how new scientific research is offering a glimmer of hope for thousands of IBS sufferers across the UK and beyond.
What is IBS?
IBS is a longstanding illness that presents in several ways, from frequent abdominal discomfort to embarrassing and distressing bowel symptoms.
It affects a significant amount of people — with 12-20% of the world’s population suffering from the condition. It’s more common in women than men, and usually begins in the teens or early twenties, persisting periodically throughout a sufferer’s lifetime.
It’s often difficult to pinpoint what will bring on an attack, and this can vary greatly from person to person. Stress is often a trigger, as are diet alterations, or changes in lifestyle.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
As well as being physically painful, the symptoms of IBS can be distressing and embarrassing. The fear that an IBS sufferer lives with can severely impede their life. They might isolate themselves and avoid social functions, leading to decreased self-confidence.
The symptoms of IBS in men and women vary, with men presenting more commonly with diarrhoea and women with constipation. But this is not set in stone, with many patients fluctuating between the two states.
- Abdominal pain & cramping
This sign of IBS is a major factor in diagnosis. Pain usually centres in the lower abdomen, although it can also radiate to the upper abdomen. It doesn’t usually occur in the upper abdomen alone. This kind of pain usually reduces after a bowel movement. For some patients, a diet low in FODMAPs helps.
Bowel relaxants can also prove effective treatments. And since the brain and the bowel work together to manage digestion, some have seen results from CBT. In some cases, pain medication is prescribed.
With IBS, gas production in the gut is ramped up by changes in digestion. This leads to uncomfortable bloating.
Some people find altered diets can help, although the food triggers will be different for everyone.
For those suffering with diarrhoea-predominant IBS, bowel movements can be up to twice the frequency of those without IBS.
There’s often an urgent need to have a bowel movement, with little warning. This can lead to patients avoiding social occasions and public places, as they fear the humiliation of a sudden attack.
With constipation-predominant IBS, the sufferer can have fewer than three bowel movements a week.
This kind of IBS is more common than diarrhoea-predominant type. But some sufferers will have instances of diarrhoea followed by painful and prolonged episodes of constipation.
The pain associated with IBS from cramping and bloating can disrupt sleep patterns leading to fatigue and lethargy.
Constipation and bloating can also cause those with IBS to feel a significant lack of energy. This can impact other areas of their life, such as work and close relationships.
The mental impact of IBS
If the physical symptoms of IBS weren’t enough to contend with, the condition can also affect sufferers’ mental health.
Studies have found a correlation between IBS and mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, IBS sufferers “have a three-fold increased odds of either anxiety or depression”.
It’s a vicious cycle for IBS sufferers. Depression and anxiety can exacerbate symptoms of IBS, just as the IBS symptoms can cause patients to experience low mood and bouts of anxiety.
Those with IBS can live in fear of sudden attacks and not being able to get to a toilet in time. The stress and anxiety this causes can be crippling. As a result, sufferers can isolate themselves socially. And this in turn can increase feelings of depression.
The link between fear and suffering unpredictable bouts of diarrhoea is woven into our social vernacular. Turn on the TV and, before long, there will be some reference to a character ‘bricking it’ before an interview, a date, or a similar anxiety-inducing situation.
Even those without IBS recognise that emotional distress can cause a reaction in the gut.
And the connection between the gut and the brain is indisputable. The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is a network of neurotransmitters and neurons in the gut, often referred to as our ‘second brain’. It consists of as many nerve cells as are found in your spinal cord. It’s no wonder that IBS symptoms can impact upon mental health, and vice versa.
What causes IBS?
Sadly, there is no neat answer for what causes IBS. Everyone is different, and causes can vary wildly from patient to patient.
There are, however, several factors that are known to play a role. It can be helpful for IBS patients to identify their individual triggers, so they can anticipate and manage attacks.
- Stress triggers
The evidence that IBS is a stress-sensitive condition is convincing.
Stress can cause hormones to be released that disrupt the normal functioning of the bowel. Traumatic or upsetting circumstances can bring on IBS attacks.
- Oversensitive Gut
Bacterial infections in the digestive tract — such as gastroenteritis — can lead to post-infectious IBS, where symptoms persist long after the infection has cleared.
Although the role of food in IBS isn’t yet fully understood, sufferers report worse symptoms when they eat or drink particular things. Common culprits are fizzy drinks and products containing dairy, wheat, citrus, beans, and cabbage.
- Mast cells
Mast cells are blood cells that manage injury and foreign bodies by releasing chemicals such as histamines. There is growing evidence to suggest that IBS sufferers have a larger amount of mast cells in their body.
How can our supplement help IBS?
IBS is a very real problem for millions of people. And as it’s a functional disorder that doesn’t show damage on scans, it can be extremely difficult to treat. But we’ve developed a supplement that can make a difference.
Recent research has proven that quercetin, a natural flavonoid and potent antioxidant, effectively stabilises mast cell levels. For many IBS sufferers, quercetin can radically improve the symptoms of IBS.
Our targeted formula contains 250g of quercetin. By stabilising mast cells in the body, IBS + can help to reduce the life-limiting symptoms of IBS for sufferers where other treatments have failed.
Our products are manufactured at a GMP facility in the UK, and all our ingredients have been scientifically studied by leading pharmacists. Our aim is to help IBS sufferers across the UK to control their symptoms, reclaim their confidence, and start living the life they want to lead.
To find out more about Cambridge Nutrascience, take a look at our About page.
IBS Advanced Formula + contains Cavacurmin® Curcumin Complex, Quercetin Powder, Green Tea Extract, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (HPMC) Capsule Shell, Flow Agent (Silicon Dioxide), Anti-Caking Agent (Magnesium Stearate).