IBS Awareness Month: What is IBS?

Last updated at 06:54
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What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common gut condition. One in five people worldwide is believed to be living with it and it can be quite an embarrassing subject for people to talk about.

IBS affects the digestive system, which consists of the parts of the body which break down the food we eat and extract important nutrients to help fuel our bodies.

People with IBS may experience a range of symptoms including stomach cramps and tummy aches, bloating, going to the toilet very often, or not being able to go to the toilet enough.

Symptoms tend to crop up every now and again and may last for a couple of days, several weeks or they can even stick around for a few months at a time. The symptoms of IBS can also have a big impact on a person's mood.

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IBS can affect a person's mood
Who does IBS affect?

Although IBS is thought to affect one in five people globally, higher rates of the condition have been reported among girls and children from Asian backgrounds.

Current data from around the world shows that the condition is usually triggered between the ages of nine and 12 and as children start to get older, the symptoms generally improve, with some seeing them go away altogether.

Adults and children tend to both experience the same types of symptoms although this may affect them in different ways.

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Symptoms of IBS include stomach cramps, bloating and going to the toilet either too often or too little

For children specifically, IBS can impact school attendance, concentration and achievements at school and it may even prevent some from taking part in hobbies they enjoy.

At the moment, there's a lot of data on IBS from countries including America, Greece, India and Turkey. However, there is currently very little data on the condition in the UK which raises issues around how it can be best tackled.

"We're finding that children are still shy to talk about these symptoms," clinical scientist Dr Sunni told Newsround.

"It's not an embarrassing illness to talk about because the sooner we can manage it, the better we can help [children] in school, and in [their] home life as well."

Is there a cure for IBS?
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A healthy diet, exercise and sleep can all help children manage their IBS symptoms

IBS is incurable, which means there are currently no treatments or cures that can eliminate it completely. However, certain changes to a person's diet and lifestyle can help them keep it under control. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables can help increase the amount of fibre in the body which can help us digest our food better.

Regular exercise, drinking lots of water throughout the day, eliminating stress and sleep can all help people properly manage their IBS symptoms.

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