We all love holidays, celebrations, or trying out a new restaurant with friends. But enjoying those special occasions may involve some extra planning if you’re living with medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as your body tends to over-react to foods, stress or hormonal changes.

Medically diagnosed IBS affects about 10-15% of Australians, or one in seven adults, and is more common in women. Its complex causes include alterations in your gut microbiome and immune function, a leaky gut lining, and the interaction between your brain and gut. This makes your gut more sensitive, causing abdominal discomfort and bloating, and alters how your bowel muscles contract, causing constipation, diarrhoea, or both.

If you experience symptoms of IBS, it’s vital to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and to rule out more serious conditions. A knowledgeable, sympathetic doctor will offer advice and options on a treatment plan suitable for you. There are different ways to manage the condition and it may take time to find out what works for you. Working in conjunction with your GP and incorporating things like behavioural therapy, modifying your diet and lifestyle, and taking a probiotic to support your gut, would provide a holistic approach to aiding symptom relief.

Dietary changes help some women with medically diagnosed IBS, but there’s no one diet that suits everyone. General tips include eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day, eating more slowly, and gradually adding more soluble fibre (found in vegetables, fruit and oat cereals) to your diet.

One diet, developed by Australian researchers, limits your intake of a group of sugars called FODMAPS that are found in many foods. FODMAPS may aggravate your gut, causing bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort. Working with a registered dietician, you follow the diet for a few weeks, then begin to reintroduce certain foods in a way that suits your body.

Medically diagnosed IBS symptoms can be worsened by stress, so consider the pressures you face and how you might manage those feelings or situations. Some people benefit from cognitive behaviour therapy, hypnotherapy or mindfulness training. Exercise is a great stress reliever and learning more about your condition also helps. Talk to your doctor if you need help with techniques to help manage stress.

If you’re living with medically diagnosed IBS, it’s important to care for your general health. Exercise regularly to keep fit, get into good sleeping and eating habits.

Probiotics help support healthy levels of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut, aiding general digestive health. Just like vitamins, each probiotic strain can play a different role in our health. Life-Space’s IBS Support Probiotic contains Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, which may help relieve abdominal pain, gas and bloating associated with medically diagnosed IBS. It also includes zinc to help support the metabolism of macronutrients (sugars, fats and proteins).

Medically diagnosed IBS can fluctuate, with good or bad stretches. Remember, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that about 11% of the global population lives with medically diagnosed IBS and you can draw strength and inspiration from other people’s experiences as you work with healthcare professionals to manage your case.

Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist talk to your health professional. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.