Gut Foundation Blog

IBS Campaign Wrap

Gut Foundation - Monday, May 08, 2017

“It’s important to be aware that IBS is a very real condition, with very real symptoms – it’s definitely not all in your head… Fortunately, there are also lots of different treatment options that can be very effective… IBS symptoms can wax and wane, and the effectiveness of treatments can vary from person to person. Some people respond well to dietary changes; however, others may only find relief through medication…”

- Professor Terry Bolin of the Gut Foundation

In line with its stated mission to assist individuals and the public to better understand the causes of gut problems and to disseminate information about better methods of prevention and treatment, the Gut Foundation’s April 2017 Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS) Month Campaign focused on direct collaboration between clinicians and accredited dieticians - and IBS consumers/patients and family members - to increase and strengthen public awareness around a significant health condition that affects one in five Australians during their lifetime.

Pivotal to the 2017 IBS Month Campaign was a focus on encouraging those with recurring or chronic gut-related symptoms to always see their doctor for diagnosis, support and specific advice in relation to the management of common symptoms - changed bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea), abdominal bloating, pain, cramping and excessive flatulence.

IBS Month Campaign key messaging across both traditional and social media was underpinned by expert-led discussion of the many erroneous myths surrounding IBS, its varying causes, its range of common symptoms and explanations of the range of dietary, medical and psychological tools, treatments and therapies currently available to those living with and affected by IBS.

Of crucial importance to the 2017 IBS Month Campaign was informing the public that IBS is not a figment of anyone’s imagination. IBS is a legitimate medical condition affecting twenty percent of the population, it does not discriminate, and can affect people of all fitness levels, cultural backgrounds, and ages.

“While not life-threatening, IBS can cause  immense pain and discomfort for some people, and can impact people’s lives quite considerably,” stated Prof Bolin. “There are many drugs available these days that can ease the pain and discomfort, help with bloating, and manage the constipation or diarrhea.”

Another key message was that each person’s experience of IBS is unique, with symptoms and effective treatments varying significantly from person to person, the key point being that while one specific dietary approach or medication may work well for one person, it may prove to be of little or no benefit to another individual - regardless of any apparent similarities in regard to symptoms. Adopting a treatment or dietary management regime that has assisted or worked well for one individual may unfortunately result in significantly negative outcomes for another.

The pros and cons of popular dietary approaches to managing IBS symptoms was particularly closely explored, discussed and explained during the Campaign. One approach - the Low Fodmap Diet – for example, currently enjoys a high public profile and has been adopted or tried by many IBS sufferers.

Chloe McLeod, Accredited Practicing Dietician and Gut Foundation 2017 IBS Month partner explains, “Following a diet that is low in FODMAPs has been shown to help relieve symptoms of IBS for some people. FODMAPs - Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – are types of carbohydrates that can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine, resulting in increased water to be drawn into the gut, causing diarrhea in some people. For others, the carbohydrates travel to the large intestine, where they are fermented by bacteria, producing excess gas, which can cause typical IBS symptoms like bloating, constipation, flatulence, pain and nausea.”

The Gut Foundation’s Professor Terry Bolin explains further, “Diet can be a very effective way to control IBS symptoms for many people. While the low FODMAP diet may be useful for some, other people may find it more beneficial to avoid other known irritants like fatty or spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine. Many people eliminate foods like dairy and gluten, thinking that this will help, but it is unnecessary to avoid them long-term, and may in fact mean you’re missing out on important nutrients.”

The low FODMAP diet should be a temporary change only with a short elimination phase of between 2-4 weeks. It is important to remember that reintroduction of high FODMAP foods or any other significant dietary changes should always be done under the supervision of a registered GP or an Accredited Practicing Dietician.

Discussing all intended or current IBS management treatment options - whether dietary or medical - with your doctor also allows the exploration and supervised trial of other approaches. Some IBS sufferers have found relief via stress-management, yoga, relaxation, gentle exercise and gut-directed hypnotherapy. Others however, may only find their symptoms eased through the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications.

To conclude the 2017 IBS Month Campaign, the Gut Foundation conducted a Live Q&A session on its Facebook page at 12:30pm AEST on Friday 28th April 2017, where Professor Terry Bolin and dietician and gut health and food intolerance specialist Chloe McLeod provided information and advice about IBS and responded to directly posted and previously received questions.

The IBS Q&A session thread can be accessed at www.facebook.com/gutfoundation

For other relevant IBS information and resources:

Twitter:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gutfoundation

Felix Ratcliff for the Gut Foundation.

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