Irritable Bowl Syndrome – An Osteopathic Perspective
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) seems to be everywhere! Certainly it is one of the most common things we hear our patients say they have been diagnosed with or are suffering from, but what is it? How would I know if I had it? How can you help control the symptoms?
What is IBS?
IBS is defined as ‘a common condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.’ (1).
Most people who suffer with IBS start suffering from it in their 20s or 30s. It is a very common condition that can affect up to 1 in 5 people (2), although not all of them report their symptoms to anyone.
You may have IBS if you suffer from any of the following symptoms;
- wind and/or bloating
- diarrhoea or constipation, or both
- low abdominal pain/back pain, which may ease after opening the bowels or be accompanied by a change in bowel habit or stool appearance
- passing mucus
- feeling the need to open the bowels even after having just been to the toilet
- a feeling of urgency to get to the toilet
- a feeling that your symptoms are worse after eating
The most common symptoms are bouts of pain associated with either diarrhoea or constipation; sometimes these symptoms appear after eating certain foods or at times of high stress. Usually the symptoms can be relieved by passing a stool. (1)
What Causes IBS?
No-one is totally sure what causes IBS, although 10% of sufferers develop it after a stomach infection (3). There is some evidence that an IBS sufferer’s digestive tract has twice the amount of contractions compared to someone who does not suffer any symptoms (4), this has the effect of moving any food eaten faster through their body. Sufferer’s bowel muscles may also have an increased reaction to corticotrophin hormone which is released when we are stressed which would fit with many IBS sufferers reports that their symptoms are worse when they are under stress (5).
What do I do if I think I may have IBS?
The best thing to do is to visit your GP as they symptoms listed above can have many causes, an osteopath will also be able to help you understand your symptoms. The diagnosis of IBS is one of exclusion which means that your GP may send you for tests to rule out other conditions. If the tests are clear and your symptoms persist then it is likely that you have IBS.
What can be done to help with the symptoms?
Your doctor may recommend medications to help with the symptoms, but there are several things you can do to help with the symptoms.
- Take regular exercise; the movement you generate can help with the passage of food through your body.
- Keep a food diary to see if your symptoms are affected by foods you have eaten the same day or the day before.
- Eat regular meals, chew your food well and avoid eating late at night (all these things help with digestion).
- Try to identify if stress has an impact on your symptoms and take steps to address the stressors. Speaking to a counsellor may help.
For more detailed help with more specific symptoms please refer to the NICE guidelines which can be found at http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/11927/40608/40608.pdf
How Can Osteopathy Help?
Osteopaths are experts at using the body’s structure (bones, joints, muscles and nerves) to change people’s symptoms. Osteopathy is a proven method to help relieve the symptoms of digestive problems, many people who see an osteopath get great relief from their symptoms (6).
At Align Body Clinic we use several methods to help people who may be experiencing problems with their digestion;
- Direct massage of the abdomen to help with passage of food or to help relax areas of the digestive system that are in spasm easing the symptoms of diarrhoea or constipation.
- Spinal joint mobilisation which may help modify the nerve signals which are more frequent in sufferers of IBS.
- As well as relief of functional symptoms, some of our patients find osteopathy relaxing and the improved feeling of well-being associated with treatment helps them to cope better with the daily stresses that may contribute to their symptoms.
Do you want to know what is causing your pain and if we can help? Why not take advantage of our new patient assessment introductory offer to get you started towards a tailor made recovery plan for only £19.
Are you in a lot of pain and want to get better as soon as possible? If so then why not book in for a new patient consultation, with treatment on the day, for £65.
We are also there to help you from home. Take a look at our suite of exercise resources and advice sheets which you can easily download and use from home.
1 – Patient.co.uk (2013). http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/irritable-bowel-syndrome
2 – Crossman, DA, Zhiming, L, Andruzzi, E, et al. (1993). US Householder survey of functional gastrointestinal disorders. Dig Dis Science, 38, pp 1569.
3- Dunlop SP, Jenkins D, Spiller RC. (2003). Distinctive clinical, psychological, and histological features of post-infective irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. Vol ;98(7):1578-83.
4- Kellow, JE, Phillips,SF. (1987). Altered small bowel motility in irritable bowel syndrome is correlated with symptoms. Gastroenterology, 92, pp1885.
5- Fukodo, S. (2007). Role of cortico-trophin releasing hormone in irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal inflammation. Journal of Gastronenterology, 42, Suppl. 17, pp48-51.
6- Bronfort, G. et al., 2010. Effectiveness of manual therapies; the UK evidence report. [online], available at http://www.chiroandosteo.com/content/18/1/3, accessed on 20/9/13.