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.
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."