Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal condition. Yet many people are still misinformed of some of the most basic facts about IBS, and disregard it as an actual medical condition.
You’ve probably heard that IBS is simply extra stress or anxiety. Or that it just has to do with the spicy lunch you had that day. But IBS can be far more serious than slight indigestion.
IBS is an intestinal disorder that affects millions of people every year. Symptoms include changes in bowel movements, such as constipation or diarrhea, as well as cramping, gas and pain in the lower abdomen.
Let’s set the record straight, starting with addressing some of the top IBS myths many people still believe to be true.
Myth 1: There is no way to diagnose IBS.
Fact: Diagnosing IBS consists of ruling out other conditions with a diagnostic process that examines conditions in which the bowel appears normal but does not function normally. Doctors will refer to the Rome criteria, a combination of common symptoms associated with IBS.
Myth 2: Successful treatment does not exist.
Fact: IBS can be managed and treated with the right combination of diet and medication, under the care of an experienced gastroenterologist. Making dietary changes by eliminating gluten, gas-producing foods and FODMAPs (stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols that are found in some grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables) are all good places to start.
Medications to specifically treat IBS include lubiprostone (Amitiza) and alosetron (Lotronex). Antibiotics, fiber supplements and anti-diarrheal medications can work for those suffering as well.
Myth 3: IBS pain is minor and temporary.
Fact: Though some describe their IBS symptoms as more of an annoyance, many report it as being debilitating enough to keep them from performing normal day-to-day activities. IBS may not be a life-threatening condition, but it can severely affect the quality of life for those who suffer from it. The chronic gas and bloating, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain that can last for days at a time affect a wide range of activities, including work, social engagements and sexual activity.
Myth 4: All IBS cases are the same.
Fact: All IBS cases are not the same, so they shouldn’t be treated similarly. As listed above, depending on the severity of the case, there are many treatment options that can be combined in a way that works best for you. Eliminating gluten from the diet of an IBS patient may work for them, but it may not work for you. Working with your gastroenterologist to test the efficacy of various treatment options will help find the right treatment plan for you.
Myth 5: IBS is an uncommon condition.
Fact: IBS is a very common condition that currently affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States, two-thirds of them female. It affects all ages, but mostly those under the age of 50.
There are many opinions and theories floating around regarding irritable bowel syndrome that you shouldn’t believe until you’ve consulted with and been examined by an expert. For any outstanding questions or for information on ways you can treat IBS, call the professionals at Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates at (908) 483-4000 to schedule your appointment today.