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16 Jun
2012
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Have I Got Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a physical problem that causes disruption to daily life, embarrassment, and considerable difficulty when travelling or visiting new places. Even the proximity to other people and how good the sound proofing is can cause problems with the need to use the toilet – especially in other people’s homes.

One thing that is really important to be aware of is that IBS is not a disease. But it is still misunderstood by some trained medical practitioners and frequently treated as a psychological condition rather than the brain-gut dysfunction that it actually is.

IBS is not a psychological condition. It is very real and can be devastating to an individual’s enjoyment of life. Enjoyment of life is certainly compromised in the cases of clients who come to me for help with this problem.

IBS affects enough people that it may be considered a serious problem.

Percentage of population suffering IBS symptoms
UK 10%
US 15%
Japan 10%
Canada 6%
Brazil 43%
Mexico 46%

So if you are a sufferer, you are not alone.

The Mexican and Brazilian statistics, to me, point to some environmental cause, but that cause is still unknown. There is some speculation that either the immune system, or the gastro-intestinal tract, becomes sensitive to some foods; stress; or the gastro-intestinal tract is disturbed by unknown bacteria, protozoa or even hormonal imbalances.

But what exactly is it?

The method for diagnosing IBS seems to be the elimination of all other causes for the symptoms. Once this has been done, and if nothing else could be the cause of the problems then the diagnosis is IBS. It’s a bit like a medical safety net. We don’t know what it is, it’s nothing we can name, it’s in your gut, so we’ll just call it IBS. Goodbye. The good thing about this is that, although this problem is ruining your life, it isn’t going to kill you or require you to have surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy

So you’ll find that IBS is pretty much a term used to describe a lack of normal gut function. Unfortunately the symptoms of IBS vary from person to person. So no two people diagnosed with IBS will necessarily share the same symptoms. What tends to characterise a problem as IBS is abdominal pain or discomfort along with a change in defecation frequency and/or a change in stool consistency.

One important point that I cannot stress too highly.

IBS cannot and should not be self-diagnosed.

If you have symptoms that you suspect are IBS, you must see a medical practitioner. If you want some reassurance that the diagnosis is more likely to be IBS than anything more serious then you can find a checklist of IBS symptoms here.

But if you’ve got a gut problem – get it checked out.

Michael

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