Learn about IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What are the signs and how to treat it


IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is a complex condition affecting the digestive system and can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life in severe cases. IBS is identified as a functional disorder of the large intestine which is not associated with an abnormality in the structure or changes in bowel tissue. It, therefore, does not increase the risk of developing bowel cancer or other serious bowel conditions. Around 20% people in the UK will be affected by IBS in their life and the condition usually initially develops between the ages of 20 and 30. Almost twice as many women are affected by the syndrome as men, a statistic which some researchers have linked to hormones due to increased occurrence during the time of menstruation. It has also been suggested people are more likely to suffer from IBS if they are under 45, have mental health problems or there is a family history of the condition.

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Symptoms of IBS

There are no specific tests to determine whether someone is suffering from IBS, although a blood or stool test can rule out any other medical conditions. Diagnosis is based on recognising symptoms that are commonly experienced by IBS patients such as; stomach cramps, bloating and swelling of the stomach, gas, passing mucus, constipation and / or diarrhoea. These symptoms differ from person to person, and only a small portion of patients experience severe symptoms. Some symptoms improve after going to the toilet, although flare-ups can last from a few days to a few months. Additional problems resulting from IBS include; nausea, headache, lethargy, backache, pain during intercourse and incontinence.

Cause of IBS

No exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome has been identified as the reason for the condition is not fully understood, although there are various possible causes and triggers recognised as leading to IBS symptoms arising. Sensitivity of the gut can cause mild indigestion to be experienced as extreme abdominal pain in sufferers of IBS due to the oversensitivity of nerve signals to the brain. Difficulty digesting food effectively (either by absorbing too little water, causing diarrhoea or too much water causing constipation) can produce IBS symptoms. Particular food or drinks such as alcohol, fizzy drinks, caffeine, spices, chocolate, and processed snacks can trigger a bout of IBS due to individual intolerance. Psychological factors, such as stress or anxiety, may also result in IBS symptoms as they cause chemical changes that can affect the normal functioning of the digestive system.

Treatment for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome can be managed by altering diet and lifestyle accordingly to minimise the effects of the above triggers. There is no actual cure for the condition, although there is medication available that can effectively reduce the symptoms and minimise the impact of IBS on day to day life. You can do an online Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) consultation and request a range of prescription treatments to treat IBS.


Colofac contains the active ingredient mebeverine hydrochloride, which controls muscle spasms and relaxes the muscles in the intestine to ease the symptoms of IBS without disturbing its normal function and movement. One tablet or capsule should be taken three times daily 20 minutes before meals, and then as the condition improves, usually after several weeks, the dosage can be gradually reduced. The most common side effects of Colofac are; indigestion, heartburn, dizziness, insomnia, loss of appetite, headache, rash or itchy skin. This should not be taken by patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding, allergic to mebeverine or lactose, suffering from kidney or liver disease or a heart condition.


Colpermin capsules release peppermint oil (the active ingredient) which relaxes the intestinal muscles to relieve the symptoms of IBS naturally. It also helps to disperse the pockets of gas which cause bloating and discomfort. One or two capsules can be taken three times daily about an hour before meals but not immediately after eating. This medication should only be taken when symptoms of IBS occur and stop within 1 or 2 weeks as they settle. Side effects of Colpermin are generally mild but can include; indigestion, heartburn, vomiting, nausea, allergic reactions including a rash, burning sensation in the mouth, gastro-oesophageal reflux, discomfort or irritation around the anus. Patients should seek medical advice before taking Colpermin if they are pregnant, allergic to peanuts or soya, suffer from heartburn, if it is the first occurrence of IBS and it has not been previously diagnosed or if the medication is for someone under 15.


Fybogel Mebeverine granules contain two main active ingredients to treat the symptoms of IBS. Ispaghuka husks absorb water in the bowel to soften stools while mebeverine relieves muscle spasms. The granules must be taken immediately after mixing with water and never dry. Possible side effects of this medication include: flatulence, bloating, urticaria (hives), rash, hypersensitivity reactions and anaphylactic reactions. Before taking Fybogel Mebeverine patients should seek medical advice if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients, experiencing symptoms of IBS for the first time, or if it is for use by a child under 12.

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