Tag Archives: seven

Seven ways … to prevent skin cancer

Know your moles

Moles are clusters of pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) and are usually harmless. Melanomas – the least common, but most dangerous type of skin cancer – can arise in pre-existing moles. Things to look out for include rapid growth, a change in colour, shape or border, and a previously flat mole becoming raised. Bleeding, itching, scaling or ulceration, also warrant urgent medical attention. It is useful to know what is normal, too; new, harmless moles often appear up to the age of 25, they tend to fade with age but often get darker in pregnancy. Dermatologist Howard Stevens says melanomas can look like innocent moles (“a wolf in sheep’s clothing”), so if you notice a single large mole (greater than 6mm in diameter) that is growing or changing, ask to see a dermatologist.

Spotting the changes

If you have lots of moles, it can be hard to keep an eye on them. Programmes that monitor your moles (mole mapping) use computer-assisted technology to photograph, analyse and store images of your moles over regular intervals. But you can do it yourself by looking out for the ABCDE of moles; asymmetry, border irregularity, colour change, diameter increase and enlargement or elevation.

Watch your ears and eyes

Take special care of areas of skin that are often exposed to sun, burn easily and don’t heal well – such as the tips of your ears and areas around the eyes. Basal cell cancers – the commonest and least destructive type of skin cancer – often arise near the eyes and sides of the nose. Squamous cell cancers – less common, but occasionally aggressive cancers – can arise on the tops of your ears and lips, often starting as a roughened patch that won’t heal. Melanomas can arise anywhere on the body, either in an existing mole or as a new raised nodule or spot that looks like a mole.

Know your risk

Anyone can get skin cancers, but, as with most cancers, they are much more common as you get older. People most at risk of a melanoma have fair skin and hair, blue eyes, more than 20 moles, have been exposed to severe sunburn (especially in childhood) and have a close family member who has had a melanoma. Once you have had a melanoma, you are at greatly increased risk of another.

Be UV-aware

Exposure to high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or sunbeds increases the risk of all types of skin cancer. UVA rays cause skin damage such as wrinkles and play a part in some skin cancers. UVB causes sunburn and direct damage to skin cells and increases the risk of most skin cancers. UV levels can be high even on cloudy days. Rays are strongest from 10am to 4pm, at high altitude and the nearer you are to the equator. The Met Office publishes a UV index forecast for 417 world cities, giving a level of risk from 1-11 and advising about suitable precautions.

What are ‘suitable precautions’?

Look after babies and children; later development of skin cancer is linked to childhood sunburn. Babies should be kept out of direct sun and kids should never be allowed to burn. When the UV index is 1-2 (a typical UK winter day), no protection is needed; UV 3-7 means you should wear a shirt, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. For UV 8-11, the advice is to seek shade, stay indoors during midday hours and wear a shirt, hat, shades and sunscreen at all times when outside. A hot summer day in the UK may well reach 7 or even 8.

What sort of sunscreen is best?

You need a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30-plus if the UV index is above 3. For an adult, you need two tablespoons (about the amount you can fit in your palm) of sunscreen for your entire body, including ears, neck, face, hands and feet. Put it on while still indoors because it takes about 15 minutes to be absorbed into the skin and start doing its job. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. Use a lip balm SPF 15-plus to protect lips.

Seven ways … to prevent bowel cancer

Be vigilant

Be aware of early warning signs (blood in stool, frequent/loose stools, abdominal pain/bloating after eating, or weight loss) and see your GP if you are concerned. But don’t panic. Colorectal (bowel) cancer is the third leading cause of deaths from cancer in the developed world, but only 5.4% of us will develop it. The good news is that colorectal cancer deaths have decreased by 30% in the past 20 years – partly because of screening, earlier detection and better treatment.

Especially if you’re over 60

Age is the greatest risk factor: 99% of cases occur in people over 40 and 85% in people over 60. Most people diagnosed are in their 70s. Unfortunately, it’s often older people who are most reluctant to report abnormal bowel symptoms.

Know your family history

It’s important to know your family’s medical history, with the proviso that most people who get bowel cancer don’t have any particular inherited tendency and their children won’t be at increased risk compared with the general population. But in 5-6% of cases there is a genetic predisposition and there are likely to have been other cases in the family. If you have a single first-degree relative with bowel cancer, your risk is two to three times higher than average (or higher if that relative was under 45 years old when they developed the cancer). If you have two affected first-degree relatives, your risk may be as high as four times the average. The most common inherited conditions that cause bowel cancer are familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome.

Stay slim and active

Obesity increases the risk of developing and dying from bowel cancer by 1.5 times. The association is stronger for men than women. If you are obese, try to stay active; physical activity seems to offset some of the increased risk of being overweight. Most studies suggest that eating lots of fibre reduces the risk, but that may be partly because people who are a healthy weight tend to have a high-fibre diet.

Easy on the meat

Processed, smoked and cured meats can increase the risk of bowel cancer because they contain chemicals called nitrosamines. People who eat the most processed meat have about a 17% higher risk of developing bowel cancer, compared with those who eat the least. That means 56 out of 1,000 people may get bowel cancer among people who never eat processed meat, 61 out of 1,000 average meat eaters and 66 out of 1,000 among those who eat the most processed meat. The NHS advice is that red meat (pork, beef and lamb) is a good source of protein, but that eating more than 90g a day is associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer. One lamb chop is 70g, so if you have a couple of chops, you may want to give red meat a miss the following day.

An aspirin a day?

Taking a low dose (75mg) of aspirin a day for five years may reduce your risk of bowel cancer, but the risk of gastric bleeding is thought to outweigh the potential benefits. The jury is still out on this one. Likewise, there is no robust evidence yet that statins or hormone replacement therapy prevent bowel cancer.

Get screened

Anyone at greater than average risk of bowel cancer (positive family history, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) will be advised about whether and when to have screening with colonoscopy. For the rest of us, the national screening programme in England kicks in aged 55, with a one-off bowel scope screening test in some areas (this is the test Andrew Lansley – the former health secretary who now has bowel cancer – wants rolled out more widely, as it’s currently only available to 50% of eligible people). Those between 60 and 74 years old get sent a home-testing kit once every two years to detect blood in the stool with further investigation if positive. If you want to carry on doing the home test every two years over the age of 75, you can phone the bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60 to request a kit. In Scotland, the programme starts at 50 and broadcaster George Alagiah, who also has bowel cancer, is campaigning for the same service to be provided across the UK.

Seven ways to … prevent snoring

Shut your mouth

We are designed so we breathe in and out through the nose. If you sleep with your mouth open, incoming air hits the soft tissue at the back of the throat and makes it vibrate, creating that characteristic noise. About 45% of adults snore sometimes, and 25% snore regularly – and mouth breathing is the most common cause. Some 10% of children snore, too, often due to enlarged adenoids that shrink by the age of seven. But while kids grow out of snoring, adults tend to get worse. You can try to keep your mouth shut with a chin strap that loops under the chin and over your head, or a mouth guard.

Open your nose

If your nasal passages are open, you are less likely to mouth-breathe or snore. Sterimar is a salt water spray, available over the counter, that washes out any nasal gunk and perks up the little hairs (cilia) that waft away allergens and dust. Steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can help nasal congestion caused by allergies. Alcohol and smoking cause nasal congestion; if you can’t quit, try not to smoke in the four hours before you go to sleep and limit alcohol to two days a week. You may have a structural obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum from an old injury; press hard on one side of the nose and breathe in with your mouth shut, if the other side of the nose collapses inwards and air can’t get through then you’ve got an obstruction. Nasal strips that you tape across the nose or dilators that sit inside the blocked nostril may help. Surgery called a septoplasty (or “nose job”) straightens the nose and tries to reopen the nasal passages.

Weigh it up

A fat neck makes you snore by compressing the airways. Men store excess fat around the neck more than women, so they tend to snore more. Any man with a shirt collar size greater than 16½ is likely to be a snorer. Women with short, fat necks often snore, too. Losing weight will help if neck fat is the main problem.

Check your jaw

A receding jaw (retrognathia) can contribute to snoring as the tongue is more likely to fall back and obstruct the airway when you sleep. To check whether you have retrognathia, bite together on your back teeth; if your lower teeth are markedly behind the upper ones (overbite), then retrognathia is a distinct possibility. A mandibular advancement device may help. It is a hinged gadget that fits over the teeth and pushes the lower jaw forward. You can buy a cheap one online to check whether you can bear to wear one all night. Orthodontists can make bespoke (and potentially expensive) ones and NHS snoring clinics provide them free of charge.

Back off

It’s best to sleep on your side, not your back. You can buy a pillow that aims to prop you up on your side or try the old-fashioned trick of sewing a tennis ball on to the back of your pyjamas. The problem with the tennis ball idea is that many of us don’t have PJs and can’t sew, and anyway it disturbs your sleep by waking you up when you lie flat. A swift kick or sharp prod from an exasperated partner works in a similar way.

Get a diagnosis

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) happens when your throat closes completely and you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more. Oxygen levels in the blood fall and the brain restarts breathing; often with a jolt, gasp or grunt. OSA is bad for health; it is associated with daytime sleepiness which can lead to accidents, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes and depression. You can do an online test to check whether you are at risk, download an app such as SnoreLab and see your GP for referral to a snoring clinic.

Rent, buy or wait for a CPAP pump

Moderate to severe OSA is most effectively treated by continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) – a small pump that provides a continuous supply of compressed air into your nose and mouth through a mask to prevent your throat from closing. The machine makes a quiet hum – like a laptop – but not everyone can hack sleeping with a mask on. You can rent one for a week from the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association for £100 to see whether it helps you. If it does, you can wait and get a CPAP free on the NHS, or consider buying one.

Seven ways to … prevent snoring

Shut your mouth

We are designed so we breathe in and out through the nose. If you sleep with your mouth open, incoming air hits the soft tissue at the back of the throat and makes it vibrate, creating that characteristic noise. About 45% of adults snore sometimes, and 25% snore regularly – and mouth breathing is the most common cause. Some 10% of children snore, too, often due to enlarged adenoids that shrink by the age of seven. But while kids grow out of snoring, adults tend to get worse. You can try to keep your mouth shut with a chin strap that loops under the chin and over your head, or a mouth guard.

Open your nose

If your nasal passages are open, you are less likely to mouth-breathe or snore. Sterimar is a salt water spray, available over the counter, that washes out any nasal gunk and perks up the little hairs (cilia) that waft away allergens and dust. Steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can help nasal congestion caused by allergies. Alcohol and smoking cause nasal congestion; if you can’t quit, try not to smoke in the four hours before you go to sleep and limit alcohol to two days a week. You may have a structural obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum from an old injury; press hard on one side of the nose and breathe in with your mouth shut, if the other side of the nose collapses inwards and air can’t get through then you’ve got an obstruction. Nasal strips that you tape across the nose or dilators that sit inside the blocked nostril may help. Surgery called a septoplasty (or “nose job”) straightens the nose and tries to reopen the nasal passages.

Weigh it up

A fat neck makes you snore by compressing the airways. Men store excess fat around the neck more than women, so they tend to snore more. Any man with a shirt collar size greater than 16½ is likely to be a snorer. Women with short, fat necks often snore, too. Losing weight will help if neck fat is the main problem.

Check your jaw

A receding jaw (retrognathia) can contribute to snoring as the tongue is more likely to fall back and obstruct the airway when you sleep. To check whether you have retrognathia, bite together on your back teeth; if your lower teeth are markedly behind the upper ones (overbite), then retrognathia is a distinct possibility. A mandibular advancement device may help. It is a hinged gadget that fits over the teeth and pushes the lower jaw forward. You can buy a cheap one online to check whether you can bear to wear one all night. Orthodontists can make bespoke (and potentially expensive) ones and NHS snoring clinics provide them free of charge.

Back off

It’s best to sleep on your side, not your back. You can buy a pillow that aims to prop you up on your side or try the old-fashioned trick of sewing a tennis ball on to the back of your pyjamas. The problem with the tennis ball idea is that many of us don’t have PJs and can’t sew, and anyway it disturbs your sleep by waking you up when you lie flat. A swift kick or sharp prod from an exasperated partner works in a similar way.

Get a diagnosis

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) happens when your throat closes completely and you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more. Oxygen levels in the blood fall and the brain restarts breathing; often with a jolt, gasp or grunt. OSA is bad for health; it is associated with daytime sleepiness which can lead to accidents, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes and depression. You can do an online test to check whether you are at risk, download an app such as SnoreLab and see your GP for referral to a snoring clinic.

Rent, buy or wait for a CPAP pump

Moderate to severe OSA is most effectively treated by continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) – a small pump that provides a continuous supply of compressed air into your nose and mouth through a mask to prevent your throat from closing. The machine makes a quiet hum – like a laptop – but not everyone can hack sleeping with a mask on. You can rent one for a week from the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association for £100 to see whether it helps you. If it does, you can wait and get a CPAP free on the NHS, or consider buying one.

Seven ways to … prevent snoring

Shut your mouth

We are designed so we breathe in and out through the nose. If you sleep with your mouth open, incoming air hits the soft tissue at the back of the throat and makes it vibrate, creating that characteristic noise. About 45% of adults snore sometimes, and 25% snore regularly – and mouth breathing is the most common cause. Some 10% of children snore, too, often due to enlarged adenoids that shrink by the age of seven. But while kids grow out of snoring, adults tend to get worse. You can try to keep your mouth shut with a chin strap that loops under the chin and over your head, or a mouth guard.

Open your nose

If your nasal passages are open, you are less likely to mouth-breathe or snore. Sterimar is a salt water spray, available over the counter, that washes out any nasal gunk and perks up the little hairs (cilia) that waft away allergens and dust. Steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can help nasal congestion caused by allergies. Alcohol and smoking cause nasal congestion; if you can’t quit, try not to smoke in the four hours before you go to sleep and limit alcohol to two days a week. You may have a structural obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum from an old injury; press hard on one side of the nose and breathe in with your mouth shut, if the other side of the nose collapses inwards and air can’t get through then you’ve got an obstruction. Nasal strips that you tape across the nose or dilators that sit inside the blocked nostril may help. Surgery called a septoplasty (or “nose job”) straightens the nose and tries to reopen the nasal passages.

Weigh it up

A fat neck makes you snore by compressing the airways. Men store excess fat around the neck more than women, so they tend to snore more. Any man with a shirt collar size greater than 16½ is likely to be a snorer. Women with short, fat necks often snore, too. Losing weight will help if neck fat is the main problem.

Check your jaw

A receding jaw (retrognathia) can contribute to snoring as the tongue is more likely to fall back and obstruct the airway when you sleep. To check whether you have retrognathia, bite together on your back teeth; if your lower teeth are markedly behind the upper ones (overbite), then retrognathia is a distinct possibility. A mandibular advancement device may help. It is a hinged gadget that fits over the teeth and pushes the lower jaw forward. You can buy a cheap one online to check whether you can bear to wear one all night. Orthodontists can make bespoke (and potentially expensive) ones and NHS snoring clinics provide them free of charge.

Back off

It’s best to sleep on your side, not your back. You can buy a pillow that aims to prop you up on your side or try the old-fashioned trick of sewing a tennis ball on to the back of your pyjamas. The problem with the tennis ball idea is that many of us don’t have PJs and can’t sew, and anyway it disturbs your sleep by waking you up when you lie flat. A swift kick or sharp prod from an exasperated partner works in a similar way.

Get a diagnosis

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) happens when your throat closes completely and you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more. Oxygen levels in the blood fall and the brain restarts breathing; often with a jolt, gasp or grunt. OSA is bad for health; it is associated with daytime sleepiness which can lead to accidents, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes and depression. You can do an online test to check whether you are at risk, download an app such as SnoreLab and see your GP for referral to a snoring clinic.

Rent, buy or wait for a CPAP pump

Moderate to severe OSA is most effectively treated by continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) – a small pump that provides a continuous supply of compressed air into your nose and mouth through a mask to prevent your throat from closing. The machine makes a quiet hum – like a laptop – but not everyone can hack sleeping with a mask on. You can rent one for a week from the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association for £100 to see whether it helps you. If it does, you can wait and get a CPAP free on the NHS, or consider buying one.

Seven ways to … prevent snoring

Shut your mouth

We are designed so we breathe in and out through the nose. If you sleep with your mouth open, incoming air hits the soft tissue at the back of the throat and makes it vibrate, creating that characteristic noise. About 45% of adults snore sometimes, and 25% snore regularly – and mouth breathing is the most common cause. Some 10% of children snore, too, often due to enlarged adenoids that shrink by the age of seven. But while kids grow out of snoring, adults tend to get worse. You can try to keep your mouth shut with a chin strap that loops under the chin and over your head, or a mouth guard.

Open your nose

If your nasal passages are open, you are less likely to mouth-breathe or snore. Sterimar is a salt water spray, available over the counter, that washes out any nasal gunk and perks up the little hairs (cilia) that waft away allergens and dust. Steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can help nasal congestion caused by allergies. Alcohol and smoking cause nasal congestion; if you can’t quit, try not to smoke in the four hours before you go to sleep and limit alcohol to two days a week. You may have a structural obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum from an old injury; press hard on one side of the nose and breathe in with your mouth shut, if the other side of the nose collapses inwards and air can’t get through then you’ve got an obstruction. Nasal strips that you tape across the nose or dilators that sit inside the blocked nostril may help. Surgery called a septoplasty (or “nose job”) straightens the nose and tries to reopen the nasal passages.

Weigh it up

A fat neck makes you snore by compressing the airways. Men store excess fat around the neck more than women, so they tend to snore more. Any man with a shirt collar size greater than 16½ is likely to be a snorer. Women with short, fat necks often snore, too. Losing weight will help if neck fat is the main problem.

Check your jaw

A receding jaw (retrognathia) can contribute to snoring as the tongue is more likely to fall back and obstruct the airway when you sleep. To check whether you have retrognathia, bite together on your back teeth; if your lower teeth are markedly behind the upper ones (overbite), then retrognathia is a distinct possibility. A mandibular advancement device may help. It is a hinged gadget that fits over the teeth and pushes the lower jaw forward. You can buy a cheap one online to check whether you can bear to wear one all night. Orthodontists can make bespoke (and potentially expensive) ones and NHS snoring clinics provide them free of charge.

Back off

It’s best to sleep on your side, not your back. You can buy a pillow that aims to prop you up on your side or try the old-fashioned trick of sewing a tennis ball on to the back of your pyjamas. The problem with the tennis ball idea is that many of us don’t have PJs and can’t sew, and anyway it disturbs your sleep by waking you up when you lie flat. A swift kick or sharp prod from an exasperated partner works in a similar way.

Get a diagnosis

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) happens when your throat closes completely and you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more. Oxygen levels in the blood fall and the brain restarts breathing; often with a jolt, gasp or grunt. OSA is bad for health; it is associated with daytime sleepiness which can lead to accidents, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes and depression. You can do an online test to check whether you are at risk, download an app such as SnoreLab and see your GP for referral to a snoring clinic.

Rent, buy or wait for a CPAP pump

Moderate to severe OSA is most effectively treated by continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) – a small pump that provides a continuous supply of compressed air into your nose and mouth through a mask to prevent your throat from closing. The machine makes a quiet hum – like a laptop – but not everyone can hack sleeping with a mask on. You can rent one for a week from the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association for £100 to see whether it helps you. If it does, you can wait and get a CPAP free on the NHS, or consider buying one.

Seven ways to … prevent snoring

Shut your mouth

We are designed so we breathe in and out through the nose. If you sleep with your mouth open, incoming air hits the soft tissue at the back of the throat and makes it vibrate, creating that characteristic noise. About 45% of adults snore sometimes, and 25% snore regularly – and mouth breathing is the most common cause. Some 10% of children snore, too, often due to enlarged adenoids that shrink by the age of seven. But while kids grow out of snoring, adults tend to get worse. You can try to keep your mouth shut with a chin strap that loops under the chin and over your head, or a mouth guard.

Open your nose

If your nasal passages are open, you are less likely to mouth-breathe or snore. Sterimar is a salt water spray, available over the counter, that washes out any nasal gunk and perks up the little hairs (cilia) that waft away allergens and dust. Steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines can help nasal congestion caused by allergies. Alcohol and smoking cause nasal congestion; if you can’t quit, try not to smoke in the four hours before you go to sleep and limit alcohol to two days a week. You may have a structural obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum from an old injury; press hard on one side of the nose and breathe in with your mouth shut, if the other side of the nose collapses inwards and air can’t get through then you’ve got an obstruction. Nasal strips that you tape across the nose or dilators that sit inside the blocked nostril may help. Surgery called a septoplasty (or “nose job”) straightens the nose and tries to reopen the nasal passages.

Weigh it up

A fat neck makes you snore by compressing the airways. Men store excess fat around the neck more than women, so they tend to snore more. Any man with a shirt collar size greater than 16½ is likely to be a snorer. Women with short, fat necks often snore, too. Losing weight will help if neck fat is the main problem.

Check your jaw

A receding jaw (retrognathia) can contribute to snoring as the tongue is more likely to fall back and obstruct the airway when you sleep. To check whether you have retrognathia, bite together on your back teeth; if your lower teeth are markedly behind the upper ones (overbite), then retrognathia is a distinct possibility. A mandibular advancement device may help. It is a hinged gadget that fits over the teeth and pushes the lower jaw forward. You can buy a cheap one online to check whether you can bear to wear one all night. Orthodontists can make bespoke (and potentially expensive) ones and NHS snoring clinics provide them free of charge.

Back off

It’s best to sleep on your side, not your back. You can buy a pillow that aims to prop you up on your side or try the old-fashioned trick of sewing a tennis ball on to the back of your pyjamas. The problem with the tennis ball idea is that many of us don’t have PJs and can’t sew, and anyway it disturbs your sleep by waking you up when you lie flat. A swift kick or sharp prod from an exasperated partner works in a similar way.

Get a diagnosis

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) happens when your throat closes completely and you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more. Oxygen levels in the blood fall and the brain restarts breathing; often with a jolt, gasp or grunt. OSA is bad for health; it is associated with daytime sleepiness which can lead to accidents, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes and depression. You can do an online test to check whether you are at risk, download an app such as SnoreLab and see your GP for referral to a snoring clinic.

Rent, buy or wait for a CPAP pump

Moderate to severe OSA is most effectively treated by continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) – a small pump that provides a continuous supply of compressed air into your nose and mouth through a mask to prevent your throat from closing. The machine makes a quiet hum – like a laptop – but not everyone can hack sleeping with a mask on. You can rent one for a week from the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association for £100 to see whether it helps you. If it does, you can wait and get a CPAP free on the NHS, or consider buying one.

Seven ways … to manage irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome may be inherited. It is linked to oversensitive nerves in the gut, causing debilitating pains and cramps among other symptoms. But there are ways to manage it and reduce its impact on your life.

Consider medication

Speak to your doctor about what is recommended for your particular type of IBS. If you have IBS with constipation (IBS-C), then laxatives could help. These range from osmotic laxatives, which increase water inside the colon, to cathartic laxatives, which stimulate the colon walls, although the latter may not be effective long-term. If you have IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D), then over-the-counter medications such as loperamide can help control your symptoms.

Try probiotics

Research has suggested that changes in gut flora may trigger IBS by increasing inflammation and altering digestive motility. For some people, probiotics – available in capsules, powders and yoghurts – can alleviate symptoms, balancing gut flora by inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria, slowing down bowel movements and fighting inflammation.

Move to a high-fibre diet

If you have IBS-C or IBS-D, then increasing dietary fibre with fruit, vegetables, beans, whole-grain breads and cereals may relieve symptoms. High-fat meals can cause problems by inducing vigorous colon contractions more rapidly than usual, which can trigger cramping and diarrhoea. However, IBS has quite a wide spectrum and only one in six IBS patients experience improvements from this diet. Others find that it worsens symptoms, and may benefit from a different regime such as a ketogenic (low carb) diet, aimed at reducing inflammation.

Take exercise

Research has suggested that 30 minutes of exercise, such as walking at a moderate pace, five days a week can significantly help to ease common symptoms such as constipation and abdominal cramps. It is best to consult your doctor about what exercise regime may be suitable, but try to keep a routine so you exercise at the same time each day and avoid exercising within an hour of meals.

Reduce your stress levels

Stress is widely thought to trigger IBS, partly because of the neural connections between the brain and the gut, and any external stressors make the mind more aware of painful colon spasms. IBS may be an auto-immune disorder, and the immune system is heavily affected by stress. Try to make time in your day for relaxation sessions and, if you have a stressful life, consider taking up yoga or meditation, or practise breathing exercises.

Keep a food diary

IBS patients have different triggers, so keep a daily diary of all the foods and drinks that make your symptoms flare up. If you experience bloating, you may want to try eliminating gas-producing foods such as resistant starch (found in cold potatoes and bread), beans, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, and carbonated drinks. Fructose, found in sweet vegetables and fruit, can also trigger diarrhoea, gas and bloating in IBS sufferers, and it is worth remembering that one in 10 IBS sufferers are lactose intolerant, so minimising dairy products can provide relief. Caffeine can make diarrhoea worse, so limit coffee and tea to three cups a day.

Try peppermint oil

Studies have shown that peppermint oil may be effective in reducing the severity of abdominal cramps and spasms, bloating and the intensity of bowel movement urgency and pain when passing stools, particularly in patients with IBS-D. Try purchasing enteric-coated peppermint oil, specially coated tablets that slowly release the oil in the small intestine.

Seven ways … to manage irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome may be inherited. It is linked to oversensitive nerves in the gut, causing debilitating pains and cramps among other symptoms. But there are ways to manage it and reduce its impact on your life.

Consider medication

Speak to your doctor about what is recommended for your particular type of IBS. If you have IBS with constipation (IBS-C), then laxatives could help. These range from osmotic laxatives, which increase water inside the colon, to cathartic laxatives, which stimulate the colon walls, although the latter may not be effective long-term. If you have IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D), then over-the-counter medications such as loperamide can help control your symptoms.

Try probiotics

Research has suggested that changes in gut flora may trigger IBS by increasing inflammation and altering digestive motility. For some people, probiotics – available in capsules, powders and yoghurts – can alleviate symptoms, balancing gut flora by inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria, slowing down bowel movements and fighting inflammation.

Move to a high-fibre diet

If you have IBS-C or IBS-D, then increasing dietary fibre with fruit, vegetables, beans, whole-grain breads and cereals may relieve symptoms. High-fat meals can cause problems by inducing vigorous colon contractions more rapidly than usual, which can trigger cramping and diarrhoea. However, IBS has quite a wide spectrum and only one in six IBS patients experience improvements from this diet. Others find that it worsens symptoms, and may benefit from a different regime such as a ketogenic (low carb) diet, aimed at reducing inflammation.

Take exercise

Research has suggested that 30 minutes of exercise, such as walking at a moderate pace, five days a week can significantly help to ease common symptoms such as constipation and abdominal cramps. It is best to consult your doctor about what exercise regime may be suitable, but try to keep a routine so you exercise at the same time each day and avoid exercising within an hour of meals.

Reduce your stress levels

Stress is widely thought to trigger IBS, partly because of the neural connections between the brain and the gut, and any external stressors make the mind more aware of painful colon spasms. IBS may be an auto-immune disorder, and the immune system is heavily affected by stress. Try to make time in your day for relaxation sessions and, if you have a stressful life, consider taking up yoga or meditation, or practise breathing exercises.

Keep a food diary

IBS patients have different triggers, so keep a daily diary of all the foods and drinks that make your symptoms flare up. If you experience bloating, you may want to try eliminating gas-producing foods such as resistant starch (found in cold potatoes and bread), beans, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, and carbonated drinks. Fructose, found in sweet vegetables and fruit, can also trigger diarrhoea, gas and bloating in IBS sufferers, and it is worth remembering that one in 10 IBS sufferers are lactose intolerant, so minimising dairy products can provide relief. Caffeine can make diarrhoea worse, so limit coffee and tea to three cups a day.

Try peppermint oil

Studies have shown that peppermint oil may be effective in reducing the severity of abdominal cramps and spasms, bloating and the intensity of bowel movement urgency and pain when passing stools, particularly in patients with IBS-D. Try purchasing enteric-coated peppermint oil, specially coated tablets that slowly release the oil in the small intestine.

Seven ways … to manage irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome may be inherited. It is linked to oversensitive nerves in the gut, causing debilitating pains and cramps among other symptoms. But there are ways to manage it and reduce its impact on your life.

Consider medication

Speak to your doctor about what is recommended for your particular type of IBS. If you have IBS with constipation (IBS-C), then laxatives could help. These range from osmotic laxatives, which increase water inside the colon, to cathartic laxatives, which stimulate the colon walls, although the latter may not be effective long-term. If you have IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D), then over-the-counter medications such as loperamide can help control your symptoms.

Try probiotics

Research has suggested that changes in gut flora may trigger IBS by increasing inflammation and altering digestive motility. For some people, probiotics – available in capsules, powders and yoghurts – can alleviate symptoms, balancing gut flora by inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria, slowing down bowel movements and fighting inflammation.

Move to a high-fibre diet

If you have IBS-C or IBS-D, then increasing dietary fibre with fruit, vegetables, beans, whole-grain breads and cereals may relieve symptoms. High-fat meals can cause problems by inducing vigorous colon contractions more rapidly than usual, which can trigger cramping and diarrhoea. However, IBS has quite a wide spectrum and only one in six IBS patients experience improvements from this diet. Others find that it worsens symptoms, and may benefit from a different regime such as a ketogenic (low carb) diet, aimed at reducing inflammation.

Take exercise

Research has suggested that 30 minutes of exercise, such as walking at a moderate pace, five days a week can significantly help to ease common symptoms such as constipation and abdominal cramps. It is best to consult your doctor about what exercise regime may be suitable, but try to keep a routine so you exercise at the same time each day and avoid exercising within an hour of meals.

Reduce your stress levels

Stress is widely thought to trigger IBS, partly because of the neural connections between the brain and the gut, and any external stressors make the mind more aware of painful colon spasms. IBS may be an auto-immune disorder, and the immune system is heavily affected by stress. Try to make time in your day for relaxation sessions and, if you have a stressful life, consider taking up yoga or meditation, or practise breathing exercises.

Keep a food diary

IBS patients have different triggers, so keep a daily diary of all the foods and drinks that make your symptoms flare up. If you experience bloating, you may want to try eliminating gas-producing foods such as resistant starch (found in cold potatoes and bread), beans, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, and carbonated drinks. Fructose, found in sweet vegetables and fruit, can also trigger diarrhoea, gas and bloating in IBS sufferers, and it is worth remembering that one in 10 IBS sufferers are lactose intolerant, so minimising dairy products can provide relief. Caffeine can make diarrhoea worse, so limit coffee and tea to three cups a day.

Try peppermint oil

Studies have shown that peppermint oil may be effective in reducing the severity of abdominal cramps and spasms, bloating and the intensity of bowel movement urgency and pain when passing stools, particularly in patients with IBS-D. Try purchasing enteric-coated peppermint oil, specially coated tablets that slowly release the oil in the small intestine.