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Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What It Is and What To Do

You are not alone if you have irritable bowel syndrome; it's much more common than you think.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not something we necessarily discuss with our neighbors and friends as we pass them in the halls at work or at a community function. However, there is a really good chance that you or someone you know suffers from IBS. In fact, the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) has reported that about 20 percent or 1-in-5 Americans suffer from IBS making it one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions. IBS occurs in both men and women, but for adults it’s more common among women than men and starts before the age of 35 in 50 percent of the cases. Interestingly, in adolescents, IBS affects boys and girls equally and 14 percent of high school students and 6 percent of middle school students report IBS-like symptoms.

IBS is a condition that affects the large intestine. It’s hard to define irritable bowel syndrome without also talking about the symptoms because the symptoms define the condition. People who suffer from IBS can have cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, abdominal pain and diarrhea. This condition also affects people differently. Some people experience more constipation while others suffer from frequent and sudden urges to have a bowel movement (diarrhea). With IBS it doesn’t have to be one or the other, some patients report having constipation part of the time and diarrhea at other times. Regardless of the symptoms, IBS can put a “cramp” in your day.

A colleague of mine suffers from IBS and he had this to day about his condition:

“No matter where I go or what I do my first priority is to make sure there is a bathroom nearby. One day at work the water got shut off for about an hour and I was so worried I would suddenly need to use the bathroom."

He went on to explain that his IBS is more controlled now because he changed a few thing in his diet, but he still looks for the bathroom, no matter where he goes … just in case.

The Mayo Clinic and NDDIC explain that IBS can be caused by a number of factors, which vary from person to person:

  • A person’s colon can be spasmodic resulting in diarrhea or temporarily stop working causing constipation.
  • The individual’s response to stress and certain foods can trigger IBS.
  • Serotonin levels are out of balance.
  • Some studies have shown that IBS can be a result of a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal track.
  • Hormone levels could also play a factor. Women tend to report having an increase in IBS around their menstrual period.


Many people suffer for a long time before seeking medical treatment for their IBS. While there is not a cure for it, there are lots of different treatment options. You doctor may try antispasmodic medication to help with the symptoms. You can also change your diet to see if that helps with the symptoms. Increasing foods high in fiber could also help with the constipation. If stress is a trigger for your IBS, your doctor may suggest engaging in stress reduction techniques.

If you are one of the 20 pecent of Amercians who suffer from IBS, don't feel like you need to suffer in silence. Talk to you doctor about different treatment options and do some of your own research to see what will work best for you. You can be proactive in your own health. Beside, no one knows you better than you.

Shauntel Lowe April 12, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Thank you for sharing your story!
Marilyn Bellezzo April 12, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Very informative article. As an IBS sufferer since 1983, it is important to become pro-active along with your doctor in addressing symptoms. My gastroenterologist had run out of options for me after years of medications, diets, supplements not helping. In my research I found out about IFFGD, a non-profit organization that provides help to sufferers as well as the researched treatment option of clinical hypnotherapy, IBS audio program which helped me to reduce symptoms. I now am an advocate and help patients via ibsgroup.org and ibsimpact which are non-profit support groups. There is hope - it is amazing to me that about 1 in 5 have this condition. Once I shared with people that I had it, I found out that many people I talked to either had the condition themselves or knew someone who did. It is much more prevalent than we think!
Jennifer Smith April 13, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Suffered for many years, until I found that I am GLUTEN SENSITIVE... PLease try removing all wheat, rye & barley from your diet! I was feeling great in two days!!! This is after years and years of the ugly symptoms listed above, and many many different doctors and pills :( It's so easy and life is fun again!!! PLease just give it a shot, it might work for you!
MJ Victoria April 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I suffered for over 25 years....I tried everything except for standing on my head and gargling peanut butter lol..... I would be good for a bit and then a "flare up". But last year I found a medical researcher......no pills or potions...just great dietary plan and my pain was gone in three days...GONE....she has it all on her site and how to do this in three days ( don't believe me - check it out for yourself ) I am so grateful ( I don't have to keep my eye out for bathrooms ever! ) here is a link ( you might have to copy and paste it ) http://goo.gl/D4fu6
Janet Lancaster May 09, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Calcium bentonite clay is a mineral compound from the Mojave Desert that many people use to treat issues in the gut, including IBS. Earth's Living Clay is a local company that sells the edible variety (not all clays are edible).

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