Sasha interviews The IBS Network's
CEO Alison Reid.
Sasha interviews The IBS Network's
CEO Alison Reid.
IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is a common digestive condition that may affect more than 1 in 10 people in the UK. IBS symptoms include stomach pain or stomach cramps, bloating, wind, diarrhoea and/or constipation. The IBS Network is the key UK charity supporting people with IBS.
As part of IBS Awareness Month, Sasha had the opportunity to speak to Alison Reid from The IBS Network. You can watch their chat in the video or catch up on what they chatted about below.
Alison, please tell us more about yourself
I have been the CEO of The IBS Network for 6 years and my background is in marketing communications. I worked in the charity sector for 20 years. I am passionate about what I do and when I started the job I realised how underrepresented people with IBS were. The IBS Network is the spokespeople in the UK for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
When was The IBS Network established?
It is the UK's only charity that offers ongoing support for people with IBS. We have been around for 30 years. Our core team are supported by a large network of specialist clinicians, most of whom also work in the NHS.
The charity was started by 2 former patients of our former chair - professor of gasteroenterology and nutrition at the University of Sheffield.
The patient is very much of the heart of every decision we make at the charity.
How important is it to get a diagnosis from your GP?
It is absolutely essential that people talk to their GP if they are experiencing any symptoms associated with IBS. Their GP with take a full clinical history and run some tests to rule out other conditions that overlap with IBS symptoms e.g. coeliac disease, chrohns. Bowel cancer is also tested as a matter of course.
If they dont have any markers they can then, with some degree of accuracy, give a diagnosis of iBS. Some GI symptoms do overlap as treatment is different for each of the symptoms.
What are benefits of becoming a member of The IBS Network?
People never feel alone with support from specialist professionals that they can trust. Through our forums they can connect with others with similar experience. They can learn how to better manage their IBS through the self care programme.
What are some of the common challenges that people with IBS face?
IBS is different for everyone so challenges will be different for everyone.
The 3 most common challenges we see are;
1. Work - may struggle at work if they feel unable to Sher this
2. IBS-D - afraid to leave the house and this may lead to heightened anxiety
3. Food - not as simple as avoiding some foods as everyone is different
We try to encourage people to share their condition with trusted colleague, line manager, with family and close friends. They may be positively surprised by the help and understanding they receive.
There is also a strong link between the brain and the gut so it is important to consider what/how you think. Practice relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy, mindfulness all supported by NICE as can help break the vicious cycle of anxiety and stress.
Keeping a food and mood diary can help
Keep a food and mood diary - don't just record what you eat but actually how you are feeling and what’s going on in your life. Then you can look back with objectivity as to what is going on in your life and identify a good week and what you were doing differently that week vs. a bad week. The charity has produced a range of resources and one of them is a wellness diary.
You can take the food diary to your appointment with the dietitian and talk about some of the patterns they have noticed so the dietitian is better informed.
And remember to note stress, sleep and food quantities. Large food portions may be a trigger for some people with IBS. By keeping a food diary you get to understand what works for you.
Can people with IBS live well?
Yes definitely. It may take some time for people to learn about their condition and what their gut can and can't tolerate.
1. The first step we suggest is acceptance. Accept that there is something going on. Something different to your partner or friend and you need to examine
2. Believe that you can do something about it. You are in charge of your gut and things you can do will make a difference to your gut and your quality of life.
Where else can people go to get support for their IBS?
This has been an especially tough year for the NHS given the pandemic. Some people are given a diagnosis by their GP and then told to go and sort themselves out. It helps if you have a GP that has understands IBS and can support them. Find a GP that understands and hang on to them.
You may also be able to get advice from a specialist gastroenterology dietitian. They may not always be easy to find via the NHS but there is also the private avenue to go down. And seek the help of your family and friends. Once they understand then they can support you. That’s what they are there for - in good times and bad. If you overcome your embarrassment about talking about IBS then there are people that can help, alongside the IBS network.
You have to understand what works for you as that will be unique to you. Ensure the information you are getting is reliable. You can trust sources such as the NHS, British Dietetic Association or The IBS Network. For ongoing IBS support the NHS really struggle with this which is why the NHS signpost to The IBS Network.
What key tip would you give to someone newly diagnosed with IBS?
You can feel well living with IBS. You can make the difference yourself. Positivity can impact on your IBS journey. You can learn to live well with it and minimise the impact it has on your life. You might just need to make a few changes.
Sasha Watkins Dietitian + Co-founder
Sasha is a registered dietitian and has spent more than 15 years interpreting nutritional science to help people feel happier and healthier through better food choices. Sasha was one of the first UK dietitians to be trained in the low FODMAP diet and has published research on IBS, food allergy and intolerance.