Long standing problems with diarrhoea or constipation or cramping abdominal discomfort may suggest irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in younger people. Typically, patients with IBS have had episodic symptoms for many months. The condition is not life threatening but symptoms can be very troublesome. Fortunately, symptoms can be improved by a variety of dietary and medical steps. When diagnosing IBS it is important to exclude other important gut problems such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and bowel cancer. This can usually be done by simple blood tests and sometimes colonoscopy where the lower bowel (or colon) is viewed with a flexible telescope.

It is important to seek advice if you have had a recent change in bowel habit or have been passing blood with your motions, especially if you are 40 years old or more. It is particularly important if you have any of these symptoms and have a family history of bowel cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease).Why not listen to Dr Pollok talking about bowel cancer and colonoscopy in a recent radio interview.