IBS is a term that gives us no information. Irritable means a bit annoyed. Syndrome means a group of symptoms appearing together. It sounds as though IBS is not a real illness, but say that to a sufferer who has crippling stomach pains and is sweating like a Greek minister on the phone to Wonga. You won't like the reply.
To be diagnosed with IBS you just have to be clear of everything else, such as inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease for example. When the doctors can't figure out what's wrong - you've got IBS. It a long process of elimination, but now there is a simple blood test that will diagnose IBS.
The main symptoms are:
Other symptoms can include headaches, back pain and nausea.
The diagnostic process is long-winded for the 1/5 people that suffer from IBS in the UK. Worldwide it's thought 10% of the population are affected. Many triggers can cause IBS - food intolerance, the weather, stress. Eliminating them takes time, patience, and months of constantly feeling ill.
Research has identified two antibodies which are produced when a person has IBS. They are anti Cdtb and anti-vinculin. A simple blood test will reveal whether or not the person has IBS, although there is still room for error.
A lot of people are not very impressed by this latest discovery, complaining that there is still no cure for IBS, and so the new blood test will not improve lives. I'm going to go against the general sway of opinion for two reasons:
1. For many people simply knowing what they are suffering from will be a relief.
2. Surely to cure a disease you have to understand it first. This blood test is a positive step in the right direction. In time a cure will be developed, but only if research continues. How can you expect to cure something if you don't even know what it is? The researchers should be congratulated, not criticised for their progress in supporting people with IBS.
Lifestyle changes are important. Keep yourself healthy, or get healthy. Try to reduce stresses in your life - though eliminating or managing stress is easier said than done.
There are medications that may help, but they are based around treating your symptoms. Anti-spasmodics manage pain; laxatives manage constipation and anti-diarrheal medicines may stop you constantly running to the loo. Probiotic drinks and yogurts may help soothe your bowel and are worth a try.
You must keep an eye on what affects your bowel, be it food groups or stress. Work at reducing these encounters in your life and if you are suffering mentally see your GP for advice. There is always help available.