April is IBS Awareness Month. Nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults have symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), making it one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders diagnosed by doctors.
IBS affects the large intestine causing cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. “Although symptoms may be uncomfortable, they do not cause permanent damage to the colon and can be controlled over time,” says Dr. Nelson H. Lim M.D., a gastroenterologist and hepatologist with privileges at Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert Medical Centers.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), IBS is not a disease but a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. This means that IBS symptoms are caused by changes in how the GI tract works.
“The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but food, emotional stress and hormones are just a few factors that can affect IBS symptoms,” adds Dr. Lim. He adds that a person with IBS may have a colon that is more sensitive and reactive than usual. “Sensitivity causes spasms after stimulation by things such as certain foods or medications. Milk, chocolate and alcohol might cause constipation or diarrhea, while carbonated beverages and some fruits and vegetables may lead to bloating and discomfort. Stressful events can worsen or aggravate symptoms, but it does not cause them.”
IBS usually begins before the age of 35 and is typically seen before the age of 50. Women and those with a family history of IBS are the most at risk for developing the syndrome. Since women are more likely to have IBS, many of them find that signs and symptoms are worse during or around their menstrual cycle.
“Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert Medical Centers Highlight Irritable Bowel syndrome Awareness.” SanTanValleyToday.com. 7 April 2011. http://www.santanvalleytoday.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2882:chandler-regional-and-mercy-gilbert-medical-centers-highlight-irritable-bowel-syndrome-awareness&catid=64:business