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Dear doctor, I often suffer from a painful stomach and feel bloated. Could it be IBS?

14 November 2017

Q: I often suffer from a painful stomach and feel bloated, usually after I’ve eaten. Could this be IBS and how could I prevent this?

A: IBS or Irritable bowel syndrome is a 'functional' disorder of the gut.  By functional, we mean that the structure of the gut is fine, however it does not work as well as it could. This typically causes a range of symptoms that vary between individuals but most commonly include, bloating, pain and diarrhoea or constipation.

IBS is a common condition and thought to affect up to one in five people at some point in their life. Though people of all ages can develop the condition, it usually first develops when a person is between 20 and 30 years of age and more common in women, with around twice as many women affected than their male counterparts.

The symptoms are often relieved on opening the bowels and made worse by certain foods and high stress levels. In order to treat it, it’s important to identify any triggers, such as certain food or drinks and avoid them to improve your diet (you can find really useful advice on the Gut Network website or patient.co.uk).

Increasing exercise and reducing your stress levels may also help but consistent symptoms such as bloating and pain can be treated with an antispasmodic such as peppermint oil capsules (these can be found at several high street retailers). You can also access a lot of useful information from the websites above as well as some self-help guides. However, if symptoms persist, do make a routine appointment with your GP who will be able to recommend further treatments.

Dr Mark Coombe is a GP practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital.

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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