Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition most people have heard of before, but don’t truly understand. Considering there’s still a lot even doctors don’t know about IBS, it comes as no surprise that there are plenty of misconceptions floating around about it. But seeing as though it’s one of the most common chronic GI issues people face, education about the syndrome is important.
The more we all know about IBS, the more understanding and accommodating we can be for those who suffer—and the more readily you can recognize if you might be suffering from it too. Let’s start by going over some basic facts about this uncomfortable, and often painful, condition.
1) IBS is common.
As we mentioned, IBS is a more common problem than you might think. It affects about 10-15% of the population in the U.S. alone. It is more common in women and typically diagnosed in your 20s or 30s. Men get it too though, and children and older adults can be diagnosed as well.
2) Symptoms are different for different people.
IBS is a different experience for everyone. Depending on symptoms, individuals typically fall into three main categories: IBS-C, IBS-D, and IBS-M. Those with IBS-C primarily deal with constipation. For those in the IBS-D category, diarrhea is the main symptom. IBS-M is when someone alternates between bouts of constipation and diarrhea.
3) Doctors do diagnose IBS.
IBS is classified as a functional gut disorder, which means there are no structural or biochemical abnormalities that would show up on a test or image. The bulk of the diagnostic process, therefore, is ruling out other conditions that could be causing symptoms (inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies/sensitivities, infection, etc.). But there is a criterion of symptoms off of which a doctor must base their diagnosis. Usually, an IBS diagnosis requires at least two of the following:
- Recurrent (3+ times per week) abdominal pain/discomfort for at least 3 months
- Onset occurs with change in bowel frequency or appearance
- Symptoms improve with defecation
4) Stress does not cause IBS, but it is a trigger.
Experts don’t really know what causes IBS. They have observed correlations with symptoms and flare ups though, and stress is one of the biggest. This is because your stomach and brain are closely linked, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the gut-brain axis. Reducing stress is one of the recommendations for treating and preventing a reoccurrence of IBS symptoms.
5) There is no cure.
Many people assume IBS can be cured by modifying your diet or taking a pill. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this syndrome. There are ways to manage symptoms though and restore quality of life. Changing your diet to avoid trigger foods, such as dairy, wheat, processed sugars, and alcohol, can certainly make a big difference in preventing symptoms, but it doesn’t make the condition go away. IBS can also be managed with other lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and stress management, as well as some medications for symptoms and supplements.
6) IBS symptoms are not normal.
A lot of people with IBS wait years to discuss their symptoms with their doctor. This is usually because they either write them off as a normal “stomach ache” or sensitivity, or because these issues can be uncomfortable to voice. But if you’re experiencing pain, discomfort, and/or bowel problems regularly and persistently, then it’s important to bring it up. Your doctor will help you identify the problem, whether it’s IBS or something else, so you can work your way toward finding relief.
At BEK Medical, we know that education about health problems is a crucial part of living a long, healthy life. We also know that you need medical products you can trust to help you manage when you do suffer from health issues that impact your quality of life. That’s why we offer top-quality home medical supplies for a wide variety of needs and conditions.
Browse our inventory online or contact us today for help finding the at-home medical supplies you need!