"Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is just the diagnosis they give you when they can't figure out what's wrong."
"IBS is from stress. If you just learn how to relax you'll feel better."
"It's all in your head."
Do any of these myths about IBS sound familiar to you? Perhaps you've heard them from family or friends over the years to dismiss your "tummy troubles." Learn the truth behind some of things you may have heard.
1. IBS is an uncommon condition. IBS is very common
; it's estimated that 24% of women in the United States suffer from IBS. Men also have IBS
. In the United States and other western countries, IBS affects 3 times more women than men, but in other parts of the world IBS is very common in men.
2. IBS pain is not debilitating.
Some people report that the pain caused by IBS
is more of an annoyance, but others describe it as intolerable. The pain may lessen with a bowel movement, but for some the pain is continuous and debilitating.
3. IBS is caused by stress.
IBS is a functional disorder and is not caused by emotions or stress
. Some people with IBS find that their symptoms are made worse by stress, but stress itself does not cause the problem.
Colitis is a term that refers to inflammation in the large intestine. IBS does not cause inflammation in the intestine, so it is a different condition
7. IBS only causes diarrhea.
IBS can cause both diarrhea and constipation. IBS actually has 3 forms
: diarrhea-predominant (D-IBS), constipation-predominant (C-IBS), and alternating constipation and diarrhea (A-IBS). D-IBS is the most common form. followed by IBS-C and IBS-A.
8. IBS only causes symptoms on the large intestine.
IBS can also cause fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting (though this symptom is uncommon) and is associated with fibromyalgia
, anxiety disorders, and depression.
9. Enemas can be used to treat constipation.
Enemas may be prescribed by a physican at certain times, such as before a colonoscopy, but they should not be used to treat constipation
on a consistent basis. Over time, the persistent use of enemas can damage the muscles in the large intestine, causing abnormal function.
10. There is no way to diagnose IBS.
IBS is often diagnosed after diagnostic tests have ruled out other conditions that have similar symptoms. However, there are a set of criteria, called the Rome Criteria
, that can be used to diagnose IBS.