Every year in April, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) sponsors Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common disorder among those who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. It is devastating for some individuals while others might only have minor symptoms. I personally have struggled with severe bouts of IBS over the years and eating out in restaurants and worrying about whether I’m going to make it to the bathroom in time when we are out are always major concerns for me. I can never fully enjoy myself because in the back of my mind I’m always wondering if IBS symtpoms are going to hit and I’m going to be in severe pain.
I am grateful that there has been a month dedicated to IBS and to raising awareness for it, but we do not just suffer from IBS 30 days out of the year! This is a topic that needs further awareness and attention drawn to it the other 11 months out of the year.
IBS is a disruptive bowel disorder that accounts for approximately 20 to 40% of all visits to gastroenterologists. Like many chronic disorders of unknown origin, IBS is unpredictable. One time an IBS patient may suffer from continual constipation while another time it may be constant diarrhea. The pain levels can fluctuate as well as triggers.
Dr. Sharon Ostalecki found that 33% – 77% of Fibromyalgia patients have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, compared to 10% – 15% rate of IBS in the general population.
The causes of IBS are still unknown, but research has shown that approximately two-thirds of IBS patients have abnormally low thresholds for experiencing pain in their bowels. Research has also shown that the muscles of the intestines are over-reactive in many IBS patients, contracting excessively in response to stimuli like food, stress, and pressure. This is the likely cause of the crampy bowel discomfort many IBS patients feel after meals and under stress.
Diagnostic Criteria for IBS
Below is the Rome III Diagnostic Criteria * (a system for diagnosing functional gastrointestinal disorders based on symptoms) for Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
Recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort** at least 3 days per month in the last 3 months associated with 2 or more of the following:
1. Improvement with defecation
2. Onset associated with a change in frequency of stool
3. Onset associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool
* Criteria fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis.
** “Discomfort” means an uncomfortable sensation not described as pain.
Other symptoms that are not essential but support the diagnosis of IBS:
* Abnormal stool frequency (greater than 3 bowel movements/day or less than 3 bowel movements/week);
* Abnormal stool form (lumpy/hard or loose/watery stool);
* Abnormal stool passage (straining, urgency, or feeling of incomplete bowel movement);
* Passage of mucus;
* Bloating or feeling of abdominal distension.
For more information on IBS, please see my post HERE.