Gut Week 2015: Everything You Need To Know About IBS, Bloating And Leaky Gut Syndrome

Millions of Brits experience digestive problems each year – from bloating and constipation to indigestion and irregular bowel movements.

Yet all too often, we suffer in silence.

This year’s Gut Week aims to break the ‘Poo Taboo’ by educating the public about gut health and ending any embarrassment associated with some of the UK’s most common complaints.

To get the conversation started, we asked Dr Helen Webberley from Oxford Online Pharmacy to give us the low-down on some of the most Googled conditions.

What Is It?

"Bloating is a common sensation of abdominal discomfort, with a feeling of fullness and some visible distension of the abdomen," Dr Webberley says.

Symptoms may also include excess wind production (flatus) and severe pain in the abdomen caused by wind (colic).

What Causes It?

Bloating is commonly associated with constipation, acid reflux and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

"It can also be associated with less common conditions such as lactose intolerance, peptic ulcer disease, inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease," Dr Webberley adds.

How Is It Treated?

One of the easiest ways to improve this condition is to identify foods that initiate bloating, then exclude them from your diet safely with the help of a dietitian.

"Anti-spasmodic drugs such as Mebeverine may also help" says Dr Webberley.

What Is It?

IBS is the most commonly presented condition relating to abdominal discomfort Dr Webberley sees as a GP.

"The condition is often diagnosed when there is no obvious abnormality detectable in the bowel and usually arises from incoordination of bowel motility," she says.

The condition is characterised by:

- Diarrhoea, constipation or both

- Abdominal bloating and distension

- Mucus production

- Acid reflux

- It can be associated with bladder instability and frequency

What Causes It?

"IBS is aggravated by stress, mental illness, poor sleep pattern (shift work etc) and chronic pain," Dr Webberley says.

How Is It Treated?

No single treatment has been identified as being effective for treating IBS, although the condition may be helped by dietary exclusion.

Dr Webberley adds: "Stress management, acupuncture, psychotherapy, anti-spasmodic drugs (such as Mebeverine) and low dose tricyclic antidepressants can also help."

What Is It?

According to the NHS, Leaky Gut Syndrome is a proposed condition and is only recognised by some health practitioners.

Those who recognise Leaky Gut Syndrome as a condition say it is caused by the immune system reacting to germs, toxins or other substances that have been absorbed into the bloodstream via a porous ("leaky") bowel.

Dr Webberley says Leaky Gut Syndrome "is not evidence-based, nor is it recognised as a real condition by gastroenterologists".

"The main exponents of the condition are largely untrained practitioners such as nutritionists and alternative medicine practitioners," she adds.

"Supposedly, the condition is characterised by increased gut permeability to toxins causing conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and even multiple sclerosis."

How Is It Treated?

According to Dr Webberley, those diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome tend to be treated with alternative medicine products and dietary exclusion.

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