Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common of all digestive problems, affecting around one in six people. It is a long-term condition that causes pain, discomfort and bloating in the abdomen as well as altered bowel habits. IBS is more common in women than in men, and usually develops between the ages of 15 and 40. Without IBS treatment, the condition can affect daily life, restricting activities and causing problems with eating and socialising. Because it is difficult to pin down exactly why IBS arises, IBS treatment from a busy GP may be rather hit and miss.

If you are able to consider private IBS treatment, you can have access to a more cohesive and structured care plan, with your needs taken into account over months and years. There is no cure, so IBS treatment is focused on reducing the symptoms through changes to your lifestyle, and the use of medicines and psychological therapies. The most effective IBS treatment regime for you will depend on the cause of your IBS.

This article on private irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) treatment is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

What are the causes?

The cause of IBS is not known, but may include any or all of the following:

  • Genetic factors
  • Changes in the contractile activity of the muscles lining the bowel
  • Becoming increasingly sensitive to wind inside the bowel
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Certain foods, such as caffeinated drinks or fatty foods
  • Drugs such as antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen

What are the symptoms?

IBS treatment can be difficult because each person who has it experiences a unique set of symptoms that can include a combination of any or all of the following:

  • Pain
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Wind
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Feeling full
  • Backache
  • Fatigue

Some people with IBS may find their symptoms mildly annoying but manageable and may cope without formal IBS treatment. However, some people with more severe forms of IBS find that the symptoms of IBS can be embarrassing and significantly impact their daily life, to the point that they decide to seek IBS treatment. Most private hospitals in the UK are able to offer IBS treatment with their specialist gastroenterologists, which includes a full range of diagnostic tests and assessments, as well as tailored therapies.

A firm diagnosis must precede IBS treatment

If you have other irritable bowel syndrome symptoms of such as weight loss, blood in your stools, anaemia, or diarrhoea, or you have a family history of bowel disease, it is important to get medical advice rather than assume you have IBS without getting a firm diagnosis.

Diagnosis of IBS is usually made based on your symptoms, though you may need further tests including blood tests, colonoscopy (using a camera to view inside the bowel), endoscopy (using the same technique to check out the oesophagus and stomach), X-ray/barium enema, or a biopsy to rule out more serious conditions such as bowel cancer and ulcerative colitis. You may also need to provide a stool sample to be tested for infection. These tests and appointments can all be arranged quickly and to suit your work commitments if you are able to have private IBS treatment.

Private dietary advice

For some people, changes to diet can be the most effective form of IBS treatment and the dietician will work closely with your gastroenterologist to suggest the most beneficial diet in your case. This can mean eating regularly, drinking more fluids, cutting down on high-fibre foods such as wholegrains and bran, reducing the amount of fruit in your diet (to no more than three portions per day), avoiding artificial sweeteners (such as sorbitol) and avoiding processed foods. Adding oats and linseeds to the diet may also reduce bloating.

Your private healthcare team may also be able to recommend specific diets that may become part of your overall IBS treatment plan. Keeping a food/symptoms diary will help by allowing your specialist to assess your diet, recognise patterns and identify particular foods that may be triggering discomfort or other symptoms. You may also need to undergo testing for food allergies if your diet assessment indicates that your IBS is triggered by specific foods or food groups.

As well as changing your diet, you will also be encouraged to look at stress management and to take regular exercise, which can reduce stress and help to regulate bowel movements.

Private medical therapy

Some people find anti-diarrhoea medicines, some laxatives, medications for stomach cramps, peppermint oil capsules, probiotics (such as those found in some yoghurts), or paracetamol to be effective IBS treatments. Some over-the-counter versions of these medications may be helpful or your private medical care will include prescriptions for others. It may be a case of trial and error to find the IBS treatments that work best for you.

For those whose symptoms don’t improve with these initial IBS treatments, psychological or ‘talking’ therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy or psychotherapy can be effective. Complementary therapies such as colonic irrigation may have some effect as IBS treatments for some people and a wide range of therapies are available privately in conjunction with your medical care.

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