With the festive season now upon us bringing with it countless parties culminating in the traditional feast on Christmas Day, many are gearing themselves up to overeat and suffer the consequences.

However, for a growing number of the population discomfort after eating is not restricted to Christmas time.

“A quarter of all referrals that I receive are related to irritable bowel syndrome,” says Dr Charles Gordon, consultant gastroenterologist at Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital, who receives referrals from all over Dorset.

A common condition of the digestive system, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and an urgent need to visit the toilet or incontinence if a toilet is not nearby. Symptoms will vary from person to person, affecting some people more severely than others.

“The first step is to sit down with the patient and go through their diagnostic history and symptoms to make sure that there isn’t another underlying illness,” explains Dr Gordon.

“Unexplained weight loss and a lump in your abdomen or back passage can be signs of a more serious condition.”

Once coeliac disease has been ruled out, a basic blood test will also discount anaemia.

Dr Gordon adds: “While there is no actual cure for IBS, the symptoms can be managed by finding out what your triggers are and making changes to your diet and lifestyle.”

When a positive diagnosis has been made, Dr Gordon will talk at length with the patient about their diet and how to balance meals. Patients may also be advised to limit their intake of FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) rich foods such as the onion family, wheat and artichokes, as well as the usual ‘windy’ culprits, cabbage and beans.

“The low-FODMAP diet is very useful in helping patients to discover the foods that trigger their symptoms. If drastic changes are required, I will refer the patient to a dietician who will treat them without compromising their overall health and wellbeing,” says Dr Gordon.

Depending on the patient’s medical history and whether they are suffering from diarrhoea or constipation, medication can also be used to help control IBS.

Living with IBS can have a negative impact on a sufferer’s overall quality of life, however Dr Gordon believes: “Recognising the symptoms for what they are will allow you to turn the tables on the condition and learn how to control it instead. Once we can identify the appropriate treatment, sufferers should be able to live a normal, full and active life.”

  •  For further information about IBS or to book an appointment with Dr Charles Gordon contact 01202 702830.