A common bowel condition that affects between up to 20 percent of the UK population may not actually exist, according to new research.
Experts say Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not a single condition but the label put on symptoms triggered by variety of causes.
IBS symptoms include excess gas, bloating and severe diarrhoea - but researchers found that it may not be one condition but a whole range of them.
It suggests IBS may be the result of ignoring problems
The new study, published by the British College of Nutrition and Health reviewed 220 studies and categorised the causes into lifestyle, including such as poor sleep, dietary factors and imbalances in gut bacteria.
Lead author Ben Brown says IBS is an “umbrella diagnosis based on symptoms”.
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He said: “Unfortunately what often happens is they get given that label and told ‘there’s not much we can do about it’.
“That’s not addressing the problem.”
IBS symptoms overlap with those of other conditions, including colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer and endometriosis.
The bowel illness also displays the same symptoms as coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and microscopic colitis.
Writing in the Mirror, Gastrointestinal specialist Dr Kevin Barrett said: “There are still conditions where IBS may not be the correct answer and GPs should be aware of patients whose symptoms do not respond to treatments, or whose symptoms change.
“They should be reassessed and may need a referral.”