What exactly is IBS? article image

What exactly is IBS?

IBS is an abbreviation and stands for "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" which in Swedish means hypersensitive, or easily irritated intestine. This means that you have a disorder in the intestine that affects its function and sensation. IBS is a chronic disease that can come and go a little in periods and which unfortunately lacks specific treatment in healthcare today. It is simply not known what causes IBS, but it is a harmless disease that is unfortunately becoming increasingly common, especially among young people.

Even if you don't know why IBS occurs, you still know approximately what happens in the body. IBS is thought to be due to changes in the gut where the function and interaction between the muscles and nerves of the gut are out of balance. The interaction between the brain and the gut via nerves is also affected. Stress, anxiety and worry can trigger IBS symptoms but this is not considered a cause.

Common symptoms of IBS are:

  • Gripe
  • Grinding pain in the stomach
  • Pain (or less pain) after eating
  • Lots of gases
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irregular toilet habits

You can also get other symptoms such as nausea, sweating, palpitations, headache, fatigue and gastritis. To be diagnosed with IBS, you must have had the symptoms for more than 3 consecutive months. There is no known cure for IBS, but there are lots of things you can do yourself to relieve the symptoms and reduce the discomfort. It may require some experimentation but it will be worth it.

Tips for you with IBS:

  • Write a food diary and you will discover what makes you better and worse
  • Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse - this is where you have to experiment
  • Examples of foods that make many people feel worse are strong spices, fatty foods, coffee, alcohol, onions, legumes, cabbage, sweeteners, milk products (lactose)
  • Drink plenty of water, preferably 1.5–2 liters per day to avoid constipation and facilitate digestion
  • Try eating according to FODMAPs with the help of a dietician or doctor
  • Eat small portions often
  • Eat slowly and chew your food well
  • Reduce the stress in your everyday life
  • Go to the toilet regularly
  • Exercise regularly
  • Try supplementing with lactic acid bacteria
  • Silica gel – relieves several IBS symptoms

Do you want help from experts?

The company Belly Balance is run by dietitian Sofia Antonsson and specializes in stomach health and IBS. Sofia is the one who implemented the dietary treatment FODMAP in Swedish healthcare. Belly Balance offers free digital IBS treatment and if you are unsure whether you have IBS there is also a test on their website.

You can also get help through the County Council. If you have an IBS diagnosis, the County Council offers a training together with a dietician where you get useful information about IBS as well as many tips on how you can help your body deal with it. FODMAP, as we mentioned above, stands for "Fermentable, Oligo-Di and Monosaccharides and Sugar Alcohols (Polyols)" and is a diet that can relieve IBS symptoms. The method comes from Australia, where it has been researched by doctors and dieticians since 2005. With FODMAP, you exclude fermentable (fermentable) carbohydrates that can cause stomach problems in IBS. It can be experienced as a bit sticky at first, but it has helped many and may be well worth trying.