Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Present in 10 to 15% of the population, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disruption of the bowel function, which can result in abdominal pain, abdominal bloating and rectal urgency with diarrhea. Some studies suggest that while a great number of people deal with IBS on a daily basis, only 1 in 4 people will actually visit a doctor about their symptoms. Typically, patients visit their doctors because they are concerned that the symptoms reveal a different disorder altogether.

The important thing to remember about IBS is that it is treatable, and not life-threatening! Many patients suffer from IBS without even realizing it, opting instead to adjust their daily habits to deal with their changing digestive tendencies. IBS does not put you at greater risk of other, more serious gastrointestinal diseases or conditions, and won’t put any undue stress on any other major organs of the body.

The greater impact with IBS would be one of emotional duress, as dealing with the changes of habits and adopting new lifestyles can at times take an emotional toll on people who suffer from IBS. In addition to digestive symptoms, IBS also has a list of non-intestinal symptoms that can affect overall quality of life: difficulty with sexual function (pain during intercourse or lack of libido), muscle aches and pains, fatigue, fibromyalgia syndrome, headaches, back pain, urinary urgency, urinary hesitation or spasms of the bladder.

Rather than emotional factors like stress and anxiety, it is believe that IBS is caused by changes in the nerves and muscles that control the bowels, interfering with function. The best way to treat IBS is through dietary changes, such as limiting gas-producing foods and drinks like beans, sodas, broccoli and cabbage. Sometimes anti-depressants may also be used to reduce pain caused by IBS symptoms.

Want to know more about IBS? Visit The American College of Gastroenterology.