Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a discomforting condition characterised by bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, and constipation. Treatment for IBS aims to manage and alleviate these symptoms. Mebeverine, an antispasmodic medication, is commonly prescribed to address muscle spasms associated with IBS. At My Pharmacy, we offer a range of both prescription and over-the-counter IBS treatments.

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    • About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

      Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine, leading to symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and changes in bowel habits like diarrhoea and constipation. IBS is a chronic condition that requires long-term management rather than a one-time cure. The exact causes of IBS are not completely understood, but they are thought to be a combination of intestinal muscle contractions, nervous system irregularities, severe infections, changes in gut microbes, and genetic factors. Stress and food can often exacerbate symptoms, although food allergies are not commonly the direct cause of IBS symptoms.

      Managing IBS typically involves a combination of diet and lifestyle adjustments, pharmacological therapy, and possibly psychological interventions to help manage stress and mental health, which are significant contributors to symptom severity. Dietary changes can include increasing fibre intake, drinking plenty of fluids, and possibly following a low FODMAP diet to identify and avoid trigger foods.

    • Symptoms

      Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can vary widely, reflecting its complex nature. Here’s a comprehensive list of symptoms commonly associated with IBS:

      ● Abdominal Pain and Cramping: Often considered the most common symptom, this pain typically occurs in the lower abdomen and can vary in intensity. The pain often subsides following a bowel movement.
      ● Altered Bowel Habits: Individuals with IBS may experience diarrhoea (IBS-D), constipation (IBS-C), or a combination of both (IBS-M for mixed). Changes in the frequency and consistency of stools are typical.
      ● Bloating and Gas: Many people with IBS report feeling bloated, which can be accompanied by gas. This symptom is not only uncomfortable but can also affect the abdomen’s appearance.
      ● Urgency and Incomplete Evacuation: There’s often a feeling of urgency to have a bowel movement, and after having one, there may be a sensation that the bowels are not fully emptied.
      ● Mucus in Stool: The presence of mucus in the stool is another symptom some individuals with IBS experience.
      ● Non-Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Symptoms not directly related to the digestive tract, such as fatigue, anxiety, and headaches, can also occur, indicating the systemic effects of IBS.
      ● Additional symptoms can include nausea, backache, and issues related to urination such as frequent or urgent need to urinate.

      These symptoms can lead to significant lifestyle disruptions, impacting daily activities and overall quality of life.

    • Diagnosis

      Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) involves several steps, primarily focused on ruling out other conditions since there’s no specific test for IBS itself. Here’s how the process generally unfolds:

      ● Review of Symptoms and Medical History: Doctors start by gathering detailed information about your symptoms and medical history. Key points include the nature of the pain, its relation to bowel movements, and any changes in stool frequency or appearance. Doctors look for symptoms that have been consistent for at least three months and began at least six months prior to evaluation.
      ● Physical Examination: During your visit, the doctor may perform a physical exam, which includes checking the abdomen for bloating and other abnormalities.
      ● Limited Diagnostic Tests: While IBS is primarily diagnosed based on symptoms and history, doctors sometimes order tests to exclude other conditions. These tests might include blood tests to check for anaemia or inflammation, stool tests to detect hidden blood or infections, and breath tests for bacterial overgrowth or lactose intolerance.
      ● Application of Diagnostic Criteria: Many doctors use the Rome IV criteria, which requires abdominal pain at least one day per week in the last three months, associated with two or more of the following: related to defecation, associated with a change in stool frequency, or linked to a change in stool form.
      ● Exclusion of Other Conditions: It’s crucial to rule out other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or gastrointestinal infections, which might mimic IBS symptoms. This is often achieved using the mentioned tests, depending on individual symptoms and risk factors.

    • Treatments

      Prescription medicines can be highly effective in managing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), particularly those like Mebeverine and Colofac, which are available through My Pharmacy.

      Mebeverine (brand names include Colofac) is an antispasmodic medication that works by relaxing the muscles in the gut. This action helps alleviate abdominal cramps and pain, which are common symptoms of IBS. Mebeverine is particularly useful in treating the muscle spasms associated with IBS and is available as tablets, slow-release capsules, or even combined with a laxative for dual relief from constipation and abdominal discomfort.

      Colofac, another brand name for Mebeverine, specifically targets the symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, cramps, bowel spasms, diarrhoea, and flatulence. By easing the muscle spasms in the intestines, Colofac helps to relieve these uncomfortable symptoms, making it easier to manage the condition.

      Both products are backed by clinical use to show that they start to work relatively quickly, generally within a few hours after taking, and are available by prescription, ensuring you receive the right dosage for effective symptom control. They are considered safe for long-term use, with side effects being generally mild and infrequent.

    • Prevention Strategies

      To help prevent the onset of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or manage its symptoms if they do arise, consider incorporating several lifestyle and dietary changes:

      ● Diet Adjustments: Begin with a diet that’s gentle on your digestive system. Avoiding triggers such as gluten, lactose, fructose, and artificial sweeteners can significantly help. Include soluble fibre in your diet from sources like psyllium, which can improve IBS symptoms by helping to normalise bowel function.
      ● Regular Exercise: Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can improve the overall health of your digestive system and reduce stress, which is often a trigger for IBS symptoms.
      ● Stress Management: Techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can reduce the stress that may trigger IBS symptoms. Maintaining a routine that includes these practices may help manage or even prevent IBS flare-ups.
      ● Proper Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, helps keep the intestines functioning smoothly and can prevent the constipation associated with IBS.
      ● Avoid Trigger Foods: Keeping a food diary can help identify and avoid foods that trigger symptoms. Common irritants include caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and fatty foods.
      ● Eat Mindful Meals: Eating smaller, more frequent meals can ease the burden on your digestive system, allowing it to function more effectively without being overwhelmed.

      By making these changes, you can help manage your IBS symptoms and improve your quality of life.