Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
University Of Sydney Trial

Did you know that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is present in 14-20% of adults in some degree or another ?

IBS is the name given to a disorder of the muscles in the bowel wall that affect gut motility: i.e. the rate at which the contents of the bowel move from the time you begin eating your food until you have a bowel movement.

Symptoms can range from a slight annoyance to extreme cases where a person's social life can be severely affected because he or she is afraid to go out in case of an attack. It can also disrupt a person's career because of numerous days off work: in fact, it is second only to back pain as a cause of absenteeism.

To make matters worse, people suffering from IBS undergo a number of tests to find out what's wrong with them only to be told that the results are negative and they don't have any serious disease. Of course, they are then twice as worried because they are still getting the symptoms yet there appears to be no reason for them.

No-one really knows the cause of IBS but the most popular theory is that the person with IBS may have a very sensitive gastrointestinal system.  So, instead of the normal, regular contractions of the bowel wall (peristalsis), the contractions are either too fast or too slow or a combination of both.

Other theories that have been proposed as either possible causes or playing a part in the development of IBS are: a previous bacterial or viral infection of the gut which have damaged nerves in the gut wall, small intestine bacterial over-growth, a possible genetic contribution or an imbalance of neurotransmitters. Evidence also suggests that stressful or emotional situations play some part.

Classic IBS symptoms are pain and alteration of bowel habit.  However, there are various combinations or patterns of symptoms that can be caused by the gut failing to function properly.

Common symptoms include :-

  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea & constipation
  • excessive flatulence (wind)
  • abdominal bloating (clothes feel too tight)
  • abdominal pain or heaviness
  • pain in the abdomen relieved by passage of a bowel movement
  • more frequent bowel motions when in pain
  • incomplete evacuation (feel you haven't finished the bowel movement)
  • discomfort in the rectum
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