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An expert shares the five most common IBS myths that are totally BS.

The stabbing pain in your abdomen. The constant trips to the loo and yielding nothing – or everything. The uncomfortable bloating that leaves your tummy looking swollen.

These are all symptoms that will be all too familiar to anyone who’s experienced Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a disturbance of the function of the bowel. And there’s more of us than you might think.

Despite this, there are lots of myths and “facts” you hear about IBS that aren’t strictly true. So to mark IBS month, we asked President of the Gut Foundation, Professor Terry Bolin about the misconceptions that are total BS.

1.It’s a rare condition.

It remains taboo yet around 20 per cent of the Australian population experience IBS in some form.

Of those, one in five will experience extreme, debilitating symptoms and two in five will experience moderate symptoms, which can interfere with work and social activities.

“It’s a relatively common condition, however people remain reluctant to talk about their painful, uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms,” Professor Brolin says.

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2. It's something older people get.

While it can affect all ages, there is one demographic more likely to experience IBS.

"The typical person with IBS will be female, in their teens or early twenties, rather than an older person. The number of females with IBS outweighs males by a ratio of three to one," says Professor Brolin.

3. It's caused by stress and anxiety.

"While no single direct cause for IBS has been identified, three of the most common triggers include; an episode of gastroenteritis such as Bali belly; worsening symptoms with menstruation; or a disturbance of the autonomic or unconscious nervous system," explains Professor Brolin.

"The unconscious nervous system controls both the circulation and the gut, and problems in this area are evident with the complaint of cold hands and feet, signifying potential problems with constipation, bloating or IBS."

It's definitely not in the mind either.

"We know it is a very real condition. It is a physical problem that can have a great impact on work and social activities."

Listen:Being chronically sick turned Sylvia Freedman into a warrior for other women. Post continues after audio.

4. It causes cancer.

Another common myth is that IBS can lead to more serious health problems.

"While it must be distinguished from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, and also from bowel cancer and Celiac’s disease, it’s important to understand that IBS is never a cause of more serious problems such as bowel cancer," explains Professor Bolin.

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Image: iStock

5. It's no big deal.

Categorically not true. Like any debilitating condition, IBS can affect your work, relationships and social life.

'It is important that someone with IBS knows it is a real phenomenon with real prospects of treatment. Although there is no outright cure, there are many different treatments that can help people to manage IBS symptoms," says Professor Brolin.

"Treatments include a good diet, anti-spasmodic medications such as Buscopan or Colofac, and there’s also an effective herbal preparation called Iberogast that can help with bloating, and many new drugs to help those who experience constipation.

"Many people also find relief with yoga and meditation – things that relax the mind and body."

Got more questions for Professor Brolin? Head over to the Gut Foundation's Facebook page at 12:30pm today (Friday 28th April) for a live Q&A.

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