In Singapore, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common condition that affects the large intestines. It is typically characterised by a group of signs and symptoms that causes a mix of belly pain or discomfort and trouble with bowel habits. These include abdominal pain and bloating, indigestion, constipation, excessive wind or gas, diarrhoea, changes in stool consistency and frequent urgency to clear the bowels. IBS is a chronic condition that may require long term management.
Read on below as we explore how IBS can bring burdens beyond health, with negative impacts to your social and day-to-day life.
Psychosocial Impacts of IBS
If you have IBS, there are often times when you might feel like avoiding social situations such as going out to dinners or participating in a social gathering. Trying new types of food away from home is a risk as you won’t be certain of how your IBS will react and how quickly you might need to locate a restroom. How you socialise will also be affected as you may fear of social disapproval, have low confidence and anxiety regarding your IBS when the symptoms are present.
IBS can also affect other areas in your life from day to day activities to vacation planning. You will need to plan out your daily commute route and take note of restroom break areas to stop off if need be. There might also be difficulty in locating toilets in overseas countries when you are travelling and you will need to take extra precaution on the kinds of foreign food that could trigger your IBS symptoms. Your mood and concentration at work will also be affected as the symptoms can be inconvenient and uncomfortable to perform on your tasks.
At home, the burden of IBS may also be indirectly borne by spouses. Marital life can be negatively affected, whether from being able to participate in family outings and get-togethers or enjoying intimacy due to interference from IBS symptoms.
How to Manage IBS Symptoms
Try the following tips below to help you manage your IBS symptoms or reduce the risk of triggering them:
- Be aware of trigger foods: Figure out if your IBS is related to certain types of foods, and avoid those from your diet as much as possible. It can help you manage your symptoms especially when you are out socialising. Foods such as milk, spicy food, chocolate, high-fat foods and alcohol can cause stomach upset or worsen IBS symptoms
- Plan in advance: Being prepared is crucial for people living with IBS, and many find it helpful to bring along an emergency kit or “survival pack” while they are out and about. Pack extra supplies such as wet wipes, tissues, medications, or a change of undergarments and clothes in a bag
- Dietary changes: Some find that including more vegetables and fruits, and ensuring that they drink enough glasses of water have helped to reduce IBS symptoms and improve bowel movement
- Keep track: While keeping a food diary can be beneficial to help identify specific food triggers, you can also add comments on your mood, frame of mind and number of hours of sleep you had to determine on patterns that may impact your IBS
Suffering from IBS can be debilitating and cause a negative impact on your emotional state and quality of life. The treatment of IBS requires a multi-faceted and customised approach as it is crucial to define and find as many factors as possible which contributed to the symptoms in which may vary from individual to individual.
If the above measures do not alleviate your symptoms and you are experiencing constant unpredictable flare-ups, talk to our doctor at gutCARE clinic in Singapore. Our team of highly-trained specialists in gastroenterology has a specific sub-specialty clinical interest including in IBS to carefully assess each patient’s condition. Your doctor will also ask questions relating to lifestyle and psychological factors before recommending any medication or treatment plan. With proper diagnosis and personalised treatment plan, people with IBS can hope to become largely symptom free and lead full, active lives.