Living with IBS: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

April 27, 2021

By: Kirthi Lilley, M.D., Wayne Health Department of Internal Medicine

The social stigma surrounding bowel disease prevents many people from talking about their Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms which often leads to suffering in silence and diminished overall quality of life. To change this stigma and raise awareness, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders designated the month of April as IBS Awareness Month.

What is IBS?

IBS is a chronic illness that affects your digestive system, primarily your large intestine. Often times, the symptoms can include bouts of cramping pain in your abdomen/stomach along with loose stools or constipation which can get better after having a bowel movement. Bloating can also be associated with these symptoms. IBS symptoms typically are present for at least 6 months or more.

Facts about IBS

  • IBS is a very common condition affecting 7-16% of US adults.
  • Although more often seen in women and people younger than age 50, it can affect men as well as people over age 50.
  • IBS is a chronic illness – meaning it will likely last a lifetime; establishing a strong physician-patient relationship is very important in the management of your symptoms.
  • We do not know the cause of IBS symptoms; however, altered motility (movement) of the gut, increased hypersensitivity to gas distension and an altered brain-gut connection seem to play a role in IBS.
  • The good news is that IBS does not increase your risk for colorectal cancer or other life-threatening GI illnesses.

What you can do to improve your symptoms

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle and diet
    • Do not consume carbonated or caffeinated beverages or deep-fried foods
    • Eat a high-fiber diet
    • Avoid smoking
    • Increase your physical activity, as daily physical activity has been associated with improved symptom control
  • Manage stress and anxiety – it can help reduce IBS flares-ups
  • Consider trying a Low FODMAP diet – an elimination diet for IBS involving certain types of carbohydrates thought to trigger its symptoms

Talking to your doctor is important

If you are experiencing any IBS symptoms, first talk to your primary care physician or advanced practice provider and ask for a referral to a gastroenterologist to help you understand and take control of your symptoms.  Wayne Health gastroenterologists are here for you. We can help you get your symptoms under control so that you can get back to your life and do the things you enjoy. Schedule an appointment with a Wayne Health physician today at our website or call 877-413-4395

Living with IBS: Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month
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