Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic (long-term) disorder that affects the digestive system. It causes abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional disorder of the gut. (The gut includes the bowels.) A functional disorder means there is a problem with the function of a part of the body, but there is no abnormality in the structure. So, in IBS, the function of the gut is upset, but all parts of the gut look normal, even when looked at under a microscope. IBS causes various symptoms (listed below).

Up to 1 in 5 people in the UK develop IBS at some stage in their life. IBS can affect anyone at any age, but it commonly first develops in young adults and teenagers. IBS is twice as common in women as in men.

  • Pain and discomfort may occur in different parts of the abdomen. Pain usually comes and goes. The length of each bout of pain can vary greatly. The pain often eases when you pass stools (motions or faeces) or wind. Many people with IBS describe the pain as a spasm or colic. The severity of the pain can vary from mild to severe, both from person to person, and from time to time in the same person.
  • Bloating and swelling of your abdomen may develop from time to time. You may pass more wind than usual.
  • Stools (sometimes called motions or faeces):
    • Some people have bouts of diarrhoea, and some have bouts of constipation.
    • Some people have bouts of diarrhoea that alternate with bouts of constipation.
    • Sometimes the stools become small and pellet-like. Sometimes the stools become watery or ribbony. At times, mucus may be mixed with the stools.
    • You may have a feeling of not emptying your rectum after going to the toilet.
    • Some people have urgency, which means you have to get to the toilet quickly. A 'morning rush' is common. That is, you feel an urgent need to go to the toilet several times shortly after getting up. This is often during and after breakfast.
  • Other symptoms sometimes occur and include: nausea (feeling sick), headache, belching, poor appetite, tiredness, backache, muscle pains, feeling quickly full after eating, heartburn, and bladder symptoms (an associated irritable bladder).

Some people have occasional mild symptoms. Others have unpleasant symptoms for long periods. Many people fall somewhere in between, with flare-ups of symptoms from time to time. Some doctors group people with IBS into one of three categories:

  • Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly bloating and constipation.
  • Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly urgency to get to the toilet, and diarrhoea.
  • Those who alternate between constipation and diarrhoea.

However, in practice, many people will not fall neatly into any one category, and considerable overlap occurs.

Note: passing blood is not a symptom of IBS. You should tell a doctor if you pass blood.

There are many oils which can be beneficial for abdominal massage for IBS. Rosemary can help with the pain. Black Pepper and Bergamot also help with pain, bloating and wind. Fennel is beneficial for constipation. It would be beneficial to visit an Holistic Aromatherapist that can create a blend especially for you.

Aloe Vera juice can be very soothing and alleviate symptoms for some people. Also probiotics can be really helpful. IBS can often be aggravated by candida overgrowth so cutting out alcohol, sugar and yeast products can really help. Also cutting out wheat and dairy products can really help too. The biggest factor with IBS is often stress. Meditation, Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy and NLP can really help. Relaxing oils for IBS to use in the bath or in a burner include Camomile, Marjoram, Lavender, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang.

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