The Most Common Intestinal Complaint
Research suggests that Irritable
Bowel Syndrome is one of the most common functional disorders of
the colon, affecting more than 20 percent of the American population.
More than 70 percent of IBS sufferers are women. It usually begins
in the teenage years and early adulthood, but it has been reported
in patients older than age 50. It is often a chronic disorder that
many people never even mention to their physicians because they
have long since become used to their symptoms and think of them
as normal. It is interesting to note that Irritable Bowel Syndrome
is twice as common as hypertension and, although one-fifth of the
population has symptoms of IBS, only 25 percent seek medical advice.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the catch-all diagnosis that is given
to people who are experiencing symptoms - usually chronic - with
their gastro-intestinal system that are not being caused by a known
GI condition or disease.
What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome all into three symptom
groups: First, there are those individuals who have diarrhea-predominant
IBS. Second, some patients have constipation-predominant IBS, and
last, some patients have pain/bloat type IBS. Bloating is also a
very common symptom in all three groups. Stress may make all of
these symptoms worse.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome does not lead to inflammatory bowel disease
(Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) or colon cancer. Even though
IBS does not lead to any serious conditions, it can be a very bothersome
condition because of the abdominal pain, altered bowel habits and
Many years ago, physicians believed Irritable Bowel Syndrome to
be a psychosomatic illness. More recently, they have discovered
that there seems to be increased sensitivity in the gut (i.e., increased
perception of pain) in patients with IBS. This is accompanied by
increased motor activity in the gut and a dysregulation between
the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system, involving
the small and large intestine.
Serotonin seems to be particularly
important in Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and studies indicate that
patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS secrete more serotonin after
a meal than people without IBS. It is also suggested that this high
level of serotonin stimulates increased movement of the intestine.