50 Things You Can Do Today To Manage IBS is a new book which takes a simple look at some of the self-help methods that can be used to reduce IBS symptoms. It’s part of a series of books which take the same approach to conditions such as insomnia and migraines and are written by the same British author, Wendy Green.
Let’s take the exact same no-nonsense approach with this review, and just tell you the pros and cons of this book.
Pros: I liked the straightforward approach, and the fact that the book concentrates solely on possible treatments. A lot of IBS books take whole chapters to explain the intricate workings of the duodenum when I just want to know how to get better.
The book covers most of the common IBS treatments, such as diet modification, drugs, fiber supplements and stress reduction. The sections on alternative therapies are useful, with interestingly detailed bits about herbal and food supplements, and I was pleased to see mentions of calcium and magnesium for diarrhea and constipation relief respectively. Brand names etc are the British versions as this is a UK publication but most products mentioned are available in the US too.
There’s a nicely balanced approach to more controversial issues such as candida and homeopathy, describing these treatments while also saying that many doctors remain skeptical about them, and there’s a clear message that IBS is definitely not ‘all in the mind’ which is always a quick way to win me over!
There were also some good, quick tips that could prove useful – for example, trying Imodium melts if you are traveling and don’t have access to water, and contacting the Gut Trust to get hold of a RADAR key which allows access to disabled toilets.
IBS Tales is mentioned in the book too, and I am even name-checked myself (“Sophie has had the the condition for 19 years”) which is rather groovy.
Cons: The book is short at 150 pages, and we’re told very little about the author, Wendy Green – just that she is a health project co-ordinator and that she has some personal experience of IBS. As the author of such a wide range of other health books I presume that she doesn’t have a particular interest in IBS, which of course is not necessarily a downside, but as someone who has studied IBS in detail for 20 years (entirely against her will) I would perhaps prefer to know a little more about the author’s expertise in the IBS arena.
I was also a little surprised by several of the statements in the book that were presented as facts. For example, the author states “Most sufferers experience flare-ups that last between two and four days”, which seems very specific, and I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything that gives that particular time-frame before. Many sufferers I hear from experience symptoms for weeks or even months at a time.
The author also says that urgent diarrhea is probably the most distressing aspect of IBS, which I would suggest is a bit of a myth – it’s certainly awful for many sufferers, but for a lot of others the severe pain is their most hated symptom.
Finally, a couple of statements in this book are contradicted by the last IBS book that I reviewed, IBS: Answers at Your Fingertips by the gastroenterologist Dr Udi Shmueli. Wendy Green states, for example, that laxatives can cause dependency, which Dr Shmueli says is highly unlikely and not backed up by modern studies.
He also disagrees with Wendy Green’s assertion that IBS is probably related to a Western lifestyle (stress, refined foods, couch potatoism) and says that IBS “exists in every society that has been examined” and affects 30% of people in Nigeria.
Conclusion: 50 Things You Can Do Today To Manage IBS is a simple, useful guide to the treatment options available for IBS, and a good introduction to the somewhat bewildering array of treatments that we sufferers are faced with.