April is IBS Month
Irritable bowel syndrome is also known as IBS. It occurs in up to 15 percent of the U.S. population with women being afflicted twice as much as men. IBS may be a genetically linked disorder, as many IBS patients report having a family member with similar symptoms.
It is also estimated that 5-10% of the worldwide population has IBS. World IBS Day recognizes its global impact and takes place on April19th this year.
IBS is referred to as a “functional disorder” because the digestive tract doesn’t work as it should. Nerves found in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract and muscles can become hypersensitive. This leads to a disconnect between the signals transmitted from the brain and the gut.
Symptoms can include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, passage of mucus, and a feeling of an incomplete bowel movement. No single pattern is routinely found in all patients with IBS. Because of the large disparity, there are now categories of IBS that include the following:
IBS-D (Mostly diarrhea and abdominal discomfort)
IBS-C (Mostly constipation and abdominal discomfort)
IBS-M (Alternating loose stools and constipation with abdominal discomfort or Mixed)
The exact cause of IBS is not known, although stress and anxiety can add to or worsen its symptoms. Some symptoms of IBS can develop after a severe intestinal infection (like food poisoning) and is referred to as post-infectious IBS. Contractions in the gut of an IBSer are more frequent and stronger than a non-IBS person. Other triggers include certain foods (high fats and fermentable carbohydrates), hormones, and caffeine but since everyone has individual symptoms and intolerance levels, it’s important to try and understand what may be triggering your own symptoms.
While treatment is available for IBS to help manage symptoms, it can vary widely amongst the population. It’s best to contact your health provider to diagnose IBS and to rule out other gastrointestinal diseases that may mimic similar symptoms. Meet with a registered dietitian who is well versed in IBS and who will help you develop a meal plan suited to your own needs.
Kate Scarlata, MPH, RDN is a colleague and personal friend of mine who has over 30 years of digestive health experience. Check out her blog for more information and resources on IBS health.
In Good Health,