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What is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)?

February 15, 2020

What is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder affecting up to 20% of the population, in which patients report abdominal pain or discomfort associated with disordered defecation or change in bowel habit. IBS can present as either diarrhoea or constipation dominant or a mixture of both.

Alongside these symptoms can be other abdominal or psychological symptoms and it is this combination of symptoms, under the one umbrella that make diagnosis and treatment tricky. Any or all of the IBS symptoms can individually be due to various illnesses or collectively due to many other illnesses. This is wherefunctional diagnosisis used to discover which illness YOUR body is suffering from.

The actualcause of IBS is not knownand therefore it is not possible to have just one definitive test for diagnosing IBS (there are many tests available and some are nearly definitive depending on the cause of IBS). There avariety of psychological, dietary and physiological factorsinvolved.

IBS is one of the most common digestive problemsexperienced by 10-15% of the populationat some point in their lives. IBS sufferers are thought to account for:

  • 3.5 million Physician visits each year
  • $8 US billion in medical costs2.
  • 40% of all referrals to hospital Gastroenterologists in the UK3


90% of patients are still symptomatic 5 years later!

IBS affects twice as many women than men with symptoms developing during the teens or twenties but before 35 years old and almost always before 50 yo.If you are over 50yo and develop symptoms of IBSit highly recommended to seek medical treatment as it can be a red flag indicating another potentially more serious condition.

IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress for many people and whilst it is not life-threatening, it can take a serious toll on the quality of anindividual’slife. People are increasingly taking longer periods of time off work due to IBS and with so many of the population affected the scale of problem on the economy and the burden on healthcare provision is considerable.

Because IBS is a“functional” bowel disorder or a collection of symptoms, all other conditions that mimic it must be ruled out before diagnosis can be confirmed. The diagnosis of a functional bowel disorder always presumes the absence of a structural or biochemical explanation for the symptoms.


If you would like to read about which supplements can help IBS read our article on it here.

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