Have you ever noticed that in times of intense stress, such as a change in career or the loss of a loved one, your gut tends to give you uncomfortable cramps, diarrhea, constipation, or the constant need to use the toilet? You may be experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.
IBS, often confused with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), is a very common illness in the United States, with as many as 15% of adults in the US experiencing it. Most people develop symptoms of IBS before they turn 40. Although there is one name for the illness, there are subsets within IBS that define how a patient experiences Irritable Bowel Syndrome: IBS-D has symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal discomfort, IBS-C presents with constipation and abdominal discomfort, IBS-mixed has both diarrhea and constipation alternating, and IBS-U has a mixture of symptoms that can’t quite be defined as one type or another. All types of IBS experience the common symptom of abdominal discomfort accompanied by a change in bowel habit or consistency. The discomfort can vary from person to person, with some people experiencing cramps while others experience bloating. The pain is commonly triggered by either a specific food, diarrhea and constipation, or emotional distress. Although many of the symptoms, such as bowel urgency or feelings of incomplete evacuation, are related to the gastrointestinal tract, other symptoms can include migraines, sleep disturbances, or even chronic pelvic pain.
Diagnosis is generally based on a patient’s history and symptoms; if you think you may be struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, contact your medical doctor to get evaluated and begin a treatment plan.