No sex please, I've got IBS

Food & Drink, Mind

You’ve heard of IBS – but are you aware that it can affect your sex life as well as your bowel movements? Read on for the lesser known side effects…

What is IBS?

You probably know someone with IBS, given that it affects around one in five people, according to the NHS. A chronic disorder that affects that large intestine, Irritable Bowel Syndrome doesn’t always get properly diagnosed. Many live with the symptoms – bloating, flatulence, cramps – with no support or advice.

How does it affect sex life?

And while you may associate it with the digestive system, actually, IBS sufferers find that the symptoms hugely affect their personal and sex lives, too. In fact, the embarrassing symptoms of IBS are wrecking the sex lives of nearly a quarter of women in the UK. This is according to a new survey taken by Healthista in March.

Feeling undesirable

Nearly half (41 per cent) of all the 1,600 women surveyed admit to gut symptoms that have left them feeling super undesirable. This in turn is wreaking havoc with their personal relationships.

Embarrassing

The study found that nearly 20 per cent have said no to sex even though they were in the mood, because of their gut symptoms. Allmost 20 per cent said IBS symptoms have stopped them revealing their body to a new partner – the bloat is real. And a quarter of the women surveyed have avoided staying at a new partner’s house due to embarrassing IBS symptoms. The same percentage have avoided intimacy.

Painful

It gets worse. Nearly 30 per cent of women surveyed hold in their wind for so long it causes “crippling gut pain”. Plus, 22 per cent revealed that they had developed depression, anxiety or low mood because of their gut symptoms.

Consultant gastroenterologist Simon Smale is unsurprised. He says: “When in relationships, women with IBS often find their symptoms intrusive. In particular, sensations of bloating and obvious abdominal distension can cause lack of confidence and anxiety about physical appearance.” He goes on, “in the long term this can lead to depression, low self-esteem and further withdrawal from intimate or social occasions. Many sufferers feel embarrassed by symptoms of bloating or flatulence and have cancelled or fore-shortened social occasions because of symptoms. This cycle of symptoms leading to adverse outcomes need not be inevitable and a range of treatments and support is available.”

How can we address this?

So, how to help with symptoms and get your sex life back on track? Certainly taking steps to address stress levels and diet is important. The gut plays a huge role in IBS and fermented foods can help. You could also consider a probiotic, for example, Alflorex. It was developed after 17 years of clinical research and contains the 35624® probiotic strain, which specifically targets and alleviates the symptoms of IBS, working to prime the gut and reset your system. Additionally, you could also get in touch with national charity The IBS Network for support and advice.

So next time someone moans about IBS, remember just how debilitating it can be, affecting bedroom life as much as bathroom.

By Charlotte

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