Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
What is Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder affecting the intestine. IBS involves problems with motility (movement of digested food through the intestines) and sensitivity (how the brain interprets signals from the intestinal nerves), leading to abdominal pain, changes in bowel patterns and other symptoms. Although often disruptive, debilitating and embarrassing, it may be some comfort to know that IBS is not life-threatening, nor does it lead to cancer or other more serious illnesses.
Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world. It is estimated that at least 5 million Canadians suffer from IBS, with an additional 120,000 people developing the condition every year. About 40% of people with IBS seek medical attention, while those with milder symptoms typically self-treat their condition with lifestyle changes, food avoidance and the purchase of non-prescription remedies. IBS is more common in women than men.
In Canada, the economic and health-care related costs of IBS exceed $6.5 billion annually. Causing frequent work and school absenteeism, IBS can significantly erode an individual’s productivity and quality of life. Canadians suffering from IBS symptoms are absent from work an average of 13 days each year, representing an additional $8 billion of lost productivity.
What is IBS-C?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome with constipation, also referred to as IBS-C, is a distressing condition that can significantly affect the quality of life of those affected.
Constipation occurs when digested food moves slowly through the digestive tract. As a result, stool remain in the large intestines for prolonged periods of time where the intestines remove excess water causing stool to become hard, dry, lumpy and difficult to pass.
What is IBS-D?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome with diarrhea is IBS with diarrhea as the primary symptom, also referred to as IBS-D
People with IBS-D experience frequent abdominal pain and watery bowel movements, and, on occasion, loss of bowel control. In fact, approximately 1 out of every 3 people with IBS-D have loss of bowel control or soiling. This has a strong, negative impact on day-to-day life, however these and other symptoms of IBS-D can be managed.
Can I prevent Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, however, the following lifestyle changes may help to prevent or ease your IBS symptoms:
- Exercise regularly to promote movement of the colon and reduce stress. Exercise can take many forms, but 20 to 30 minutes of activity at least three times per week can be helpful.
- Get enough rest. A lack of sleep and fatigue can worsen the symptoms of IBS.
- Minimize stress and tension. The brain and colon are linked through many complex pathways and emotional stress can disrupt intestinal function and cause pain. Yoga, meditation, and slow, relaxed breathing techniques can help people with IBS manage stress.
- Limit intake of caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks and fatty foods.
- Follow through on an urge to have a bowel movement, if at all possible.