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Abdominal Pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

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Abdominal Pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)


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Abdominal pain associated with IBS affects around one in three people in the UK.1 The pain is often described as the most troublesome symptom of the condition,2 with 49% of sufferers experiencing abdominal cramping at least once a week and 79% suffering at least once a month.2
Certain triggers can disrupt the usually gentle unnoticed contractions of the digestive system, causing the muscles to spasm and cramp producing painful attacks associated with IBS. Triggers that can cause this disruption include:

  • Diet - large meals, or food containing a large amount of fat can upset the bowel
  • Stress and anxiety - the bowel will respond to Stress and anxiety, which often results in
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • Female hormones - experts have found that symptoms can be worse when a woman has her period, which suggests hormones play a role in the condition
  • Medicines - certain medicines such as iron tablets, some painkillers and antibiotics, can upset the bowel and produce symptoms of IBS
Abdominal pain associated with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is caused by the cramping muscle of the bowel. The pain is often described as stabbing, gripping or churning. For people with IBS, abdominal pain often occurs alongside other symptoms which commonly include constipation, diarrhoea and bloating.
There are a number of ways to relieve symptoms associated with IBS and it is important for each individual to find a treatment that works best for them:

  • Diet - certain foods can often trigger symptoms, such as rich or spicy food, or food that is high in fat. Keeping a food diary for a month, recording all food and drink intake along with any symptoms experienced can be effective in identifying foods that trigger symptoms
  • Reducing stress - stress can also play a significant role in triggering symptoms so finding ways to manage stress levels can be helpful. Regular exercise has been proven to be a great form of stress relief
  • Targeted treatments - treatments specifically designed to relieve painful abdominal cramps associated with IBS include hyoscine butylbromide, mebeverine, and peppermint oil. These treatments work directly on the cause of the pain, relaxing the cramping muscle of the bowel to ease pain and discomfort
When to consult your pharmacist
Once you have been medically diagnosed with IBS by your GP, there are a range of products you can buy from your pharmacy without prescription that help to relieve abdominal pain associated with IBS.

Your pharmacist can offer you advice about which treatments are suitable for you to take, and changes to your diet and lifestyle that may help.

Be sure to tell your pharmacist if you are experiencing any other symptoms or taking any other treatments.
When to consult your doctor
It is important that you get a medical diagnosis of IBS before you start taking any treatment. Your doctor may want to carry out an examination or tests to rule out other conditions.
Healthy Tips
+ Stick to small, frequent meals and avoid large, irregular meals, which challenge the digestive system

+ Watch your diet and eating habits - too much or too little dietary fibre, too much fat, or a very rich/spicy diet may all upset the working of the bowel and trigger the symptoms of IBS

+ Alcohol, coffee, tea, and smoking can all act as stimulants to the bowel and provoke an attack

+ Regular exercise and relaxation techniques can help to avoid painful IBS attacks.

You should also see your doctor if any of the following factors apply, as this may indicate a more serious condition:

* If you are experiencing other symptoms such as blood or mucus in your stools

* If you are experiencing persistent abdominal pain

* If you are suffering from tiredness or nausea

* If you are experiencing unexplained fever or weight loss

* If you have a family history of inflammatory bowel disease or cancer