Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the colon (large intestine) that causes crampy abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea. IBS is classified as a functional gastrointestinal disorder because no structural or biochemical cause can be found to explain the symptoms. Upon diagnostic testing, the colon shows no evidence of disease such as ulcers or inflammation. Therefore, IBS is diagnosed only after other possible digestive disorders and diseases have been ruled out.
IBS is often misdiagnosed or misnamed as colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, irritable bowel disease or spastic bowel (colon). These misnomers persist, even though IBS is now a recognized and treatable condition. Affecting between 25 and 55 million people in the United States, IBS results in 2.5 to 3.5 million yearly visits to physicians. 20 to 40 percent of all visits to gastroenterologists are due to symptoms of IBS.What are the symptoms of IBS?
The symptoms of IBS can include:
Cramps are often relieved by a bowel movement, but some people with IBS may have cramps and be unable to pass anything. Severity of symptoms varies, and could be anywhere from a mild annoyance to debilitating. Blood in the stool, fever, weight loss, vomiting bile, and persistent pain are not symptoms of IBS and may be the result of some other problem. IBS does not lead to any organic disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or any type of bowel cancer.What causes IBS?
Muscles in the colon normally contract a few times a day, moving feces along and ultimately resulting in a bowel movement. It is believed that in a person with IBS, these muscles are exceptionally sensitive to certain stimuli, or triggers. While they would not normally affect others, triggers such as certain foods, medications, or stress can provoke a strong response in the colon of a person with IBS.
Researchers are not certain exactly why the muscles in the colon of a person with IBS are more sensitive. We do know, however, that IBS is not caused by stress or strong emotions. Some people have their first flare-up of IBS symptoms during a stressful period in their life such as the death of a relative or loss of a job. However, these stresses did not cause the condition, but rather aggravated it to the point where it became more noticeable or bothersome.Are there other conditions related to IBS?
As many as 60% of persons with IBS also suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Conversely, as many as 70% of FMS patients have reported experiencing symptoms of IBS.
Fibromyalgia. FMS is a disorder of the musculoskeletal system that is associated with symptoms of general muscle aches, stiffness, overall fatigue, and poor sleeping habits. Symptoms can vary in both severity and duration; the pain may be dull or knife-like, linger persistently, or be intermittent. Like IBS, FMS is a functional disorder, therefore tests to find the origins of the pain often come back negative.
The overgrowth of candida, a type of yeast, in the colon is called candidiasis. Growth of candida in the digestive tract is a highly controversial subject, and is not generally accepted by the medical community. It has been suggested that some incidence of IBS could be caused by candidiasis. Overgrowth of yeast can be caused by certain medications or other medical conditions, and may cause a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Diagnosis is made by testing the body for candida, and treatment usually involves a strict diet along with some anti-fungal medication and acidophilus and bifidus supplements.