Individuals who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are often surprised to learn that the disease affects approximately 10-15% or more of the general population.
IBS occurs when the intestines squeeze too hard or not hard enough, causing food to pass either too quickly or too slowly. The disease typically affects women, most often around age 20.
The symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians stress, large meals, travel and menstrual cycles may contribute to symptoms of IBS. The academy advises eating a healthy diet with plenty of insoluble fiber that would include lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains each day. In addition the group advises stress reduction.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a multi-faceted disorder with symptoms ranging from disturbance in the interaction between the gut or intestines, the autonomic nervous system and the brain which causes alteration in the regulation of bowel motility.
Abdominal pain in IBS is a generalized ache often superimposed with periods of abdominal cramps, and also sharp, dull, gas-like, or nondescript pains are also common. Bowel movement usually relieves the abdominal discomfort or pains. Altered bowel habit with changes in both frequency and consistency manifesting as chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or both in alternation is a common occurrence.
Diagnosis of IBS mainly involves identifying certain symptoms consistent with the disorder and excluding other medical conditions that may have a similar clinical presentation. The symptom-based Rome III diagnostic criteria for IBS emphasize a positive diagnosis rather than exhaustive tests to rule out other diseases. And these criteria are based on the presentation of a specific set of symptoms in addition to a detailed history, a physical examination, and limited diagnostic tests.
Upper GI symptoms are also commonly reported by IBS patients including nausea, heartburn, satiety, abdominal fullness, dyspepsia and occasionally even feelings of urgency, and a feeling of "incomplete" emptying may also be experienced.
Non-gastrointestinal symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, sleep disturbances, and sexual dysfunction are also often reported. These symptoms are often due to the coexistence or overlap of IBS with conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or interstitial cystitis. Treatment is directed toward reassurance, education, achievement of a healthier lifestyle, and occasional medication. Dietary advice may include avoiding foods that can trigger symptoms. Fiber supplementation has been shown to be effective for symptoms of constipation.
Pharmacologic (drug) therapy is best used in IBS patients with moderate to severe symptoms refractory to physician counseling and dietary manipulations. New therapies for IBS have been recently introduced and have been shown to effectively treat multiple symptoms of IBS.