What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
By Carleton Rivers, RD, LD
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a commonly diagnosed digestive disorder around the world. Data from epidemiological studies suggest worldwide prevalence is anywhere from nine to 23 percent. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) designated April as IBS Awareness Month to bring focus to this gastrointestinal (GI) disorder.
IBS is a disorder of the GI tract causing changes in stool frequency and consistency which leads to pain and discomfort. These symptoms are due to changes in how the GI tract works and do not cause damage. Currently, IBS is divided into four classifications; an individual can alternate between classifications.
- IBS-C: Constipation
- IBS-D: Diarrhea
- IBS-M: Mixed
- IBS-U: Unsubtyped
A doctor is usually able to diagnose IBS based on a patient’s symptoms, requiring few or no tests. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include abdominal pain, fullness, gas, and bloating. These symptoms may occur when there is a change in the frequency of bowel movements and will usually diminish or go away after stool is passed. An IBS diagnosis can be made if symptoms started at least six months prior to the visit and have occurred at least three times in the previous three months.