experts gathered in the North East to encourage more people to
speak-up about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other functional
bowel disorders - conditions that affect 1 in 10 of us in the
estimated 6.5m people suffer bowel problems with many still unable
to come forward for treatment, due to the stigma or possibility of
embarrassment attached to the condition.
150 patients attended 'Bowel Independence Day', an event organised
by the Durham Constipation Clinic, County Durham and Darlington NHS
National experts attended the conference, the first of its kind in
the North East, at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Durham, and spoke on a
wide range of topics chosen by patients. As well as educational
content, the conference aimed to raise the profile of bowel
conditions and provide patients with a voice, through small group
sessions, to comment on the way services should be run.
Yan Yiannakou, Professor of Neurogastroenterology, Director of
Research and Development at CDDFT, set up the first Durham
Constipation Clinic 14 years ago. He said: "About a quarter of the
UK's adult population suffer regular symptoms related to Functional
Gut Disorders, which include irritable bowel syndrome, constipation
and chronic indigestion.
are not dangerous conditions and can often be easily managed with
simple dietary and lifestyle measures so they have developed a
reputation for being mild and of little importance. However,
some patients do have severe and intractable symptoms which cause
considerable pain and lead to limitation of daily activities,
problems with relationships, loss of work and depression.
of understanding of these illnesses together with treatments that
were poorly effective has led, in the past, to some patients
feeling that there was little that could be done for them.
But recent advances in testing, drugs and device-based therapies
are starting to provide answers.
Independence Day is all about helping patients, getting their views
on how to further improve our services, and sharing experiences and
old mum of two, Adele Burlinson, from Sunderland, is one of the
patients whose life has changed since having treatment at
the Chronic Constipation Clinic. She has suffered long-term bowel
problems, but has undergone treatment that has changed her life.
She said: "I've had bowel problems since I was a toddler and these
have become worse as I've grown older. I have a condition called
'slow transit'. This means that I suffer chronic constipation which
can last for anything up to 3 or 4 weeks. Before my treatment, I
suffered from severe pain, bloating and fatigue and, some days, I
just felt so ill that I couldn't get out of bed.
"It took me a long time to really face the problem and go to the
doctors. I felt embarrassed and it was hard knowing who to turn to
for help when you're so tired and unwell.
came to a head when I gave birth to my first little girl. I was
totally fed up with being sick and I didn't want to miss any more
days of my life. My GP referred me to Professor Yiannakou and his
team at University Hospital North Durham. He was really positive. I
started to take part in medical trials and got some great advice on
diet, exercise and relaxation techniques."
are a number of treatments available at the Durham Constipation
Clinic, one of these is electrical neuromodulation therapy and
Adele was one of the first to have an operation to fit a bowel
pacemaker for constipation.
explained: "In January 2014, my life completely changed. I had a
sacral-nerve stimulator fitted under my skin at the base of my
spine. It was a fairly easy procedure and I feel so much better.
The pulses that it sends help to regulate my bowel and I was back
at work in four weeks. I can now control my condition and my life
via a remote control device which is just brilliant."
Yan Yiannakou, added: "At least 1 in 25 consultations with a GP in
Britain are for symptoms of a functional gut disorder so it's very
common. There is a lot of help around for people now, and there are
clinics with specialists providing treatments, support and advice
that can really improve the lives of people who may have become
resigned to their symptoms."
Durham Constipation Clinic, led by Professor Yiannakou, serves the
whole of the North of England and is one of the largest dedicated
constipation clinics in Europe. The clinics, held at University
Hospital North Durham, are helping around 1,500 people a year and
provide a holistic, patient centred, multi-disciplinary approach to
bowel conditions and also allow patients the opportunity to
participate in trials of novel treatments. Patients are referred to
the clinic by their GP.
added: "Getting treatment is not as horrible as some people might
think. Yes, some of it can seem invasive and embarrassing but the
staff are so reassuring and the end result is totally worth
much better: I have far less pain and I'm less bloated. I haven't
had one bad day since it was fitted in January. It's lovely to be
able to play a full part in the family again, spending more time
with my daughters and husband, and to be back at work and enjoying
natural to feel embarrassed about something we try to hide or shy
away from, however, if you are suffering from bowel problems,
please be reassured - there is help out there and it can change