IBS – what every sufferer ought to know
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a strange, confusing condition. It has many symptoms, but not all of them will apply to everyone that has it. Symptoms can change over time, which makes treatment more difficult. Perhaps most frustratingly, the causes of IBS are not well understood. The best the experts can do at the moment is tell us that IBS is caused by a combination of physical and psychological problems. None of this makes managing IBS any easier.
Let’s put all that frustration on pause for a minute, start at the beginning and ask the question, what is IBS?
IBS is a ‘functional’ bowel disorder: a problem caused by changes in how the gut works.
The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort, cramps, diarrhoea or constipation (or a combination of both), bloating, and gas.
IBS has been called by a bunch of different names over the years: colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon and spastic bowel. Today, these terms have mostly been disregarded by the medical community in favour of IBS.
If you have IBS, know that you are not alone – there are a lot more people out there who understand what you’re going through than you think.
It is really important to know that IBS is not something that you should self-diagnose:
- If you suspect that you have IBS, take our Assessment Quiz and make an appointment to visit your doctor
- If you have already been diagnosed, our advice is to focus on a dual approach to managing your symptoms:
- This approach includes the right medication, as prescribed by your doctor, and the appropriate changes to your lifestyle.
The four subtypes of IBS are constipation predominant IBS (IBS-C), diarrhea predominant IBS (IBS-D), mixed IBS (IBS-M) and unspecified IBS (IBS-U).
- People with IBS-C experience hard or lumpy stools at least 25% of the time, and loose or watery stools less than 25 % of the time.
- With IBS-D, people experience loose or watery stools at least 25%of the time, and hard or lumpy stools less than 25% of the time.
- People who have IBS-M experience hard or lumpy stools at least 25% of the time, and loose or watery stools at least 25% of the time.
- And finally, with IBS-U, people experience hard or lumpy stools less than 25% of the time, and loose or watery stools less than 25% of the time.
(Generally speaking you’re more likely to have one of the first two types.) –
IBS is estimated to affect between 11 and 15% of people worldwide. So, out of the 7 billion or so human beings on the planet, there’s literally hundreds of millions of people suffering with IBS at some point in their lives! It’s no wonder that so many go undiagnosed and untreated.
IBS also occurs more frequently in younger than older individuals, and in females more than males.