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Date: 10 April 2018

Dr Lisa Das

In a Marylebone Journal interview, Dr Lisa Das, consultant gastroenterologist says: “Females are 1.7 times more likely to get irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People suffering from anxiety or depression have a heightened risk.

"About 20 per cent of sufferers will develop it after a gut infection. It can also appear after a course of antibiotics.

“IBS is one of the most common conditions that we see in gastroenterology clinics, occurring in about 50 per cent of patients. It is essentially abdominal pain related to disordered bowel habits. 

"That can be either a change in the frequency of going to the toilet or in the form of the stool when you do. There may be a range of other symptoms associated with IBS - these can include nausea, headaches, migraines, fatigue, joint pain and skin rash.

“There is no single underlying mechanism causing the problem and is what we call ‘multifactorial’. So technically there is no ‘cure’ as there is no disease mechanism to fight. It is about managing the symptoms. We do have medications that target specific symptoms.”

Dr Das says nutrition is: “Incredibly important, but there is a great deal of confusion. Some people come in eating almost nothing, because they have restricted their diet so much. I can often tell them that they can return to a relatively normal diet, which is a revelation.

"Suddenly they can go out with friends and enjoy themselves again. You hear a lot about the low FODMAP diet, which can be very effective if properly followed with a dietician.

“You have to gain the patient’s confidence; reassurance is so important. As you develop a self-management plan, the patient begins to get a better awareness of their body.

"There are lightbulb moments where the patient realises what has been happening and you can see them physically relax. I have seen the simple act of understanding make a huge difference to patients.

"Suddenly, they are able to manage their condition in a way they couldn’t before.

“A major, and dangerous, misunderstanding is that bleeding from the rectum when you pass a stool is a symptom of IBS. This is absolutely false. Bleeding is not a symptom of IBS - if you see blood, this has to be investigated, because it can be a symptom of or precursor to some much more serious diseases,” adds Dr Das.

The full interview can be read at The Marylebone Village website.

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