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1. Do I Have IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder in which abdominal pain is associated with changes in bowel habits. Overall, IBS is the most common disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. The prevalence of IBS in the general population can vary largely ranging from 3% to 22% in different studies. The reason for this variation could be due to diversity of the IBS definitions being used and the methods that each individual study has been performed. IBS accounts for a significant portion of gastroenterology office visits and is also a common reason for primary care physicians office visits. IBS causes a lot of emotional distress and lower quality of life for a large group of individuals and also consumes a large portion of the health-care costs. IBS remains a disorder that is not fully understood. This is despite our increasing knowledge of body and its diseases.

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2. How Do I Get IBS?

IBS is the result of a sensitive bowel which responds abnormally to irritant stimuli. In fact, IBS symptoms origin from a blend of abnormal intestinal motility (i.e., abnormal movement of intestinal muscles) and abnormal intestinal sensation (i.e., abnormal feelings experienced in the intestine).

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3. What are the Symptoms of IBS?

At first glance, the symptoms of IBS may seem to be limited to the gastrointestinal tract. However, there are numerous symptoms outside of the GI tract that are also associated with IBS. These extra-intestinal symptoms are mainly related to an underlying generalized anxiety. As you see in the picture, IBS symptoms include a wide range of complaints such as abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, fullness, abdominal distension, constipation, diarrhea, incomplete bowel evacuation, flatulence, nausea and belching. Extra-intestinal IBS symptoms include headaches, palpitations, frequent urination (urinary frequency), painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) and cold hands. IBS is also commonly associated with fibromyalgia  (diffuse muscular pain) and chronic fatigue syndrome (sense of lack of energy and tiredness all the time).

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4. Is IBS usually associated with other disorders?

Yes. IBS is usually associated with several disorders out of your gastrointestinal tract. Extra-intestinal IBS symptoms include Migraine headaches, palpitations, frequent urination (urinary frequency), painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) and cold hands. IBS is also commonly associated with Fibromyalgia  (diffuse muscular pain) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (sense of lack of energy and tiredness all the time).

5. How do you diagnose IBS?

You may ask "how do doctors diagnose IBS despite lack of any specific diagnostic test?” The diagnosis of IBS is based on a detailed history and a thorough physical examination. Rome Criteria is a diagnostic framework that should be used in all clinical setting and its use eliminate the need for many unnecessary diagnostic studies. Occasionally, some tests are required to rule out organic GI disorders or other potential diagnoses. Unfortunately, there is no diagnostic test that enables the doctors to diagnose IBS. In fact the diagnostic tests are being used to exclude other diagnoses such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which includes Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, and celiac disease or other organic GI disorders.

6. What are the treatment strategies for IBS?

There are several options for treatment modalities for management of IBS including conventional medicine, dietary restriction, behavioral and psychological approaches, relaxation therapy, meditation, hypnosis, herbal remedies, alternative medicine and homeopathy. When there are several treatment option for treatment of a particular disease, you can safely assume that none one of the options is ideal. If there was an ideal treatment for this condition, there would be no need for alternatives. That being said, there are many treatments that significantly reduce symptoms. You should know that there is no cure for IBS. The remedies, therefore, are geared toward the relief of symptoms. Treatment options generally decrease stimuli, increase the sensory threshold in response to the stimuli or offset the effects of stimuli.