What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you are not alone. Once a relatively rare disorder, IBS now affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the US population. Although women are two times more likely than men to seek treatment for IBS, it is thought that men and women are affected in equal numbers.

Research has shown that when looked at retrospectively, the onset of symptoms began in childhood for many sufferers. It is the most common reason for a referral to a gastroenterologist.


IBS is characterized by a malfunction in the digestive tract. Usually, waste material is delivered through the tract to the rectum by rhythmic contractions of the intestines. In IBS, those contractions become erratic and irregular. Bowel movements are unpredictable and painful, with attending constipation, diarrhea, or an alternation of both. The abdomen may be cramped or bloated, certain foods can no longer be tolerated, and other all-too-familiar signs of gastric distress develop. In some cases, waste matter is pushed through the tract with such force that stool incontinence results. Studies have found that people with IBS have increased sensitivity to pain in the digestive tract.

 

There are really five main fundamental causes of IBS. The modern-day, fast-food diet is definitely one of them. Refined foods that are hard to digest contribute to many symptoms of poor digestion. Second, poor stress-coping mechanisms trigger nervous-system reactions that contribute to IBS. Unresolved emotional traumas can have this negative effect as well. Third, chronic infections of the digestive tract with fungi, parasites, and bacteria can be causative factors. Fourth, poorly functioning digestive organs contribute to IBS symptoms.

These include low stomach-acid production, low bile production, low pancreatic-enzyme production, and dysbiosis, in which there is a deficiency of the good bacteria that are involved with digestion and detoxification. The fifth cause, and the least common, is a structural abnormality of some type. Spinal misalignments, for example, impair nerve flow to the digestive tract, which contributes to digestive problems.

It is important that you consult with a doctor to find out whether you have IBS or some other condition that causes similar symptoms. However, in our opinion, natural therapies are the only sensible approach for the long-term control and the resolution of this condition, as they treat the underlying cause(s).

Common Illnesses That Mimic Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Cancer of the colon or the rectum
• Duodenal ulcer
Diverticular disease
• Biliary tract disease
• Parasitic diseases, such as amebiasis, giardiasis, campylobacter
• Lactose intolerance
• Laxative abuse
• Ulcerative colitis
• Imbalanced intestinal flora
• Malabsorption conditions, such as celiac disease or pancreatic insufficiency


Irritable Bowel Syndrome graphic