Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Disease Syndrome (IBS) Image

According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Edoscopy “The prevalence of IBS is estimated to be between 14% and 24% in women and 5% and 19% in men in the United States . . . . “

IBS is a very common disorder that affects the functioning of the bowel. Although the severity of the condition (also occasionally called spastic colon) can vary considerably from one patient to another, typical characteristics include changes in bowel habits ranging from diarrhea to constipation, cramp-like pains, bloating and a feeling of “gassiness. “

For some sufferers, IBS is little more than a minor inconvenience; for others it can be totally disabling. In extreme cases, the patient is unable to travel, function in the workplace or enjoy socializing.

Common Misconceptions

Irritable bowel syndrome is not . . .

  • an imaginary disease. IBS has biological causes and biological symptoms and is certainly not a condition that is “all in your mind. “
  • caused by other diseases such as gallstones or ulcers.
  • an infection, although it can sometimes be triggered by a bout of gastroenteritis or similar digestive system disorders.
  • hereditary.
  • a precursor to cancer.

How IBS Differs from Other Gastrointestinal Disorders

Irritable bowel syndrome is a recognized condition in its own right and should not be confused with other digestive system disorders.

Historically called spastic colon, nervous colon, unstable colon, spastic bowel, colitis, mucous colitis or functional bowel disease, most of these terms for IBS are rarely used any more because they are inaccurate.

Avoid Confusion!

Don ‘t confuse colitis with IBS; the two conditions are very different. Colitis refers to inflammation of the colon (large intestine), whereas IBS doesn ‘t cause inflammation.

Who ‘s at Risk and How Common is It?

Irritable bowel syndrome . . .

  • is particularly prevalent throughout developed countries.
  • occurs more often in women than men. Studies in Canada and the US indicate a female to male ratio of two to one, although women in Western countries are more likely to consult a physician than men.
  • can occur at any age, but onset is most common between the ages of fifteen and forty.
  • is less likely to afflict older people, and the intensity of symptoms may abate with age.

Seeking Medical Intervention for IBS: The Great Male-Female Divide

A study by W. Grant Thompson, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, revealed that, in North America, men suffering from IBS are less likely than women to seek specialist help for their condition.

The converse, however, is true of Eastern countries, with the number of men seeking medical help for the disorder outnumbering women by approximately four to one. This discrepancy, he contends, is largely attributable to cultural differences.

This section is divided into dealing with specific topics associated with irritable bowel syndrome, such as IBS causes and diet.


Cash, B.D.