Love your gut week 2017 – Don’t ignore your symptoms

In keeping with ‘Love your Gut Week’ I thought I would highlight the importance of visiting your GP, and not being embarrassed to do so.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about living with IBS over the past 10 years or so. DO NOT ignore your symptoms. I have to say over this period of time I’ve become less embarrassed about talking about my symptoms. Initially I was ashamed to do so.

I’ve realised that the more you discuss, the more your practitioner is able to have an understanding of what’s going on and will be able to carry out further investigations and work on a treatment plan going forward.

Something I feel really strongly about is pushing for all the tests, although the “rules” for diagnoses differ throughout, in my opinion IBS should only really be diagnosed once all other conditions are ruled out.

According to several different guidelines, they specify that it is not necessary to have a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, I really pushed for this. As unpleasant as it may sound (it’s really not that bad), it enables you to find out if there’s nothing more sinister going on inside your guts, as it literally is a camera being inserted into your large bowel.

I have found the below websites very useful when it comes to for IBS diagnoses criteria. An interesting one for me was when an Gastroenterologist asked me if my IBS-D ever woke me up through the night. My answer was no, if it had been yes then there would have been a higher chance of something other than IBS.

As part of ‘Love your Gut Week’, I have chosen to place the emphasis on not ignoring your symptoms and not being embarrassed to discuss your symptoms with your GP in the first instance. It is so important to remember, they have seen and heard it ALL before. The below has been put together by the Love your Gut team and it is a description of IBS symptoms and a guide for how to prepare when visiting your GP.

If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you are not alone – it is one of the most common disorders seen by doctors, with an estimated 9-23 % of people suffering worldwide. It is a term given to a collection of otherwise unexplained symptoms relating to a disturbance of the large bowel.  Symptoms of IBS can vary between sufferers and can affect some people more severely than others.

Key symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and spasms, often relieved by going to the toilet.
  • Diarrhoea, constipation or an alternation between the two.
  • Bloating or swelling of the abdomen.
  • Rumbling noises and excessive passage of wind.
  • Urgency (an urgent need to visit the toilet).
  • Sharp pain felt low down inside the gut and rectum.
  • Sensation of incomplete bowel movement.
IBS Stomach Pain
Sourced: Pixabay

It is important to see your GP if you think you have any of these symptoms, in order for them to try and determine the cause. Some may find going to their GP about IBS symptoms daunting and embarrassing. To help, we have put together some tips to make it easier to approach your doctor. Christine Norton is a Professor of Clinical Nursing Research at King’s College, London and a Nurse Consultant at St. Mark’s Hospital, Harrow. She sees hundreds of people a year with digestive problems, here are her words of advice on visiting your doctor:

  • Rehearse what you want to say before you come in.
  • If you are concerned that you may not remember what you wanted to say, take some brief notes with you.
  • Remember you are not the first person to have a problem – we have treated and seen thousands before.
  • Your doctor or nurse will not be embarrassed, so you should try not to be.
  • Use words that you are comfortable with and use regularly.
  • Don’t be afraid to use everyday words like ‘poo’ and ‘bottom’.
  • Open conversations with lines such as: ‘I’ve noticed a change in my bowel movements’ or ‘when I go to the toilet I am finding blood in my stools.’
  • The more honest you can be the better – even if you think you are being quite graphic.
  • No one likes being sworn at but if you can find no other word then use the four letter one beginning with s!
  • Remember the embarrassment is temporary but leaving a problem alone could lead to larger and more painful issues.
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Sourced: Pixabay

To find out about The IBS Network’s Self-Care Plan see: . The IBS Network is the national charity supporting people with IBS and offers a wide range of information, advice and support to patients with IBS.

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