What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Often left untreated by sufferers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a collection of unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, wind, and abdominal pain.
What causes IBS?
Nobody really know what causes IBS. If your medical professionals cannot find any other anatomical causes for your symptoms via lab tests, x-rays, and biopsies, you will often end up with a diagnosis of IBS.
There is some evidence to suggest that emotional factors, diet, drugs, and hormones may precipitate or aggravate GI symptoms.
These days, IBS is better understood as a combination of psychosocial and physiological factors.
IBS is an epidemic
Around one in five Australians are afflicted with “idiopathic” bowel discomfort (i.e. cause unknown).
IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in general practice, causing 30-50% of all referrals to gastroenterologists.
Two thirds of sufferers diagnosed are women, and recent research points to our DNA (namely variants of chromosome 9) as to why more women than men suffer from IBS.
Only a fraction of affected individuals—between 25% and 50%—seek medical care for their symptoms.
The gold standard for diagnosing and categorising IBS is the Rome IV Diagnostic Criteria. Here is what Rome IV says:
“Recurrent abdominal pain, on average, at least 1 day/week in the last 3 months, associated with two or more of the following criteria:
- Related to defecation
- Associated with a change in frequency of stool
- Associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool.
Criteria fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months before diagnosis.”
Characterising IBS based on symptoms
Based on the 1984 research of Kruis et al, IBS sufferers are divided into groups, based on their symptom categories. There are three groups as follows:
- Abdominal pain with diarrhoea
- Abdominal pain with constipation
- Abdominal pain with alternating diarrhoea and constipation