Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the world. Fortunately, it's also very treatable.
"IBS is characterized by a set of criteria called ROME," explains Torrance Memorial IPA President and Gastroenterologist Norman Panitch, M.D. "It's named for Rome, Italy where a group of doctors met and came up with criteria to identify patients with certain gastrointestinal complaints."
Do you have these symptoms of IBS?
If you have IBS you will experience a change in bowel habits.
"A change in bowel habits can include diarrhea or constipation that's associated with severe abdominal bloating, gas and pain," says Dr. Panitch. "This bloating and pain is usually worse during the day and can last for over three months a year."
However, it's important to know that a dramatic change in bowel habits can also
be a sign of illness more serious than IBS, especially when you're over 50.
"There are certain red flags that don't occur in IBS," says Dr. Panitch. "These include abdominal pain that awakens you from sleep, loss of appetite and weight loss. Also, bleeding of any type," says Dr. Panitch. "Talk to your doctor right away because they might be signs of Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or cancer of the GI tract or reproductive system."
Relief is Possible!
Half of all IBS sufferers endure their discomfort by over-using laxatives or over-the-counter remedies without going to the doctor.
"Many people blame IBS on a nervous stomach, but there are real treatments," explains Dr. Panitch. "For example, many people get better by avoiding wheat.
Others improve with the right kind of fiber or a medication that decreases the sensitivity of the bowel. While others need a special antibiotic followed by probiotics (good bacteria). Even a low-dose antidepressant can help, this treatment was recently endorsed by the Mayo Clinic. A gastroenterologist can help you find the right combination of treatments for you."
10 Little-Known Facts ABout Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS
- It’s the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the world.
- It causes more Americans to miss work than joint pain.
- Women are more likely to suffer than men.
- The disease runs in families.
- Symptoms begin in teens or early twenties and improve by age 60.
- There is no specific diagnostic test.
- Many sufferers are allergic or sensitive to gluten (wheat), milk or fructose.
- Symptoms can mimic other very serious illnesses.
- Half of all sufferers never go to the doctor.
- IBS is very treatable!