What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

April Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

🌸 Even though it can happen to anyone, IBS is a serious women’s health issue — affecting more women than men and even leading to increased procedures like hysterectomy or ovarian surgery.

IBS is called a functional digestive disorder because it disrupts gut function without any detectable changes in structure — through exam, imaging, or even a microscope.

That makes it tricky for doctors to treat because they don’t see anything physically wrong. But anybody with IBS knows that it can tell you how stressful the symptoms can be.

➡️ Gas

➡️ Bloating

➡️ Cramping

➡️ Constipation

➡️ Diarrhea

➡️ Bowel Urgency

➡️ Pain

Here are the basics on IBS:

🩺 IBS is usually diagnosed by symptoms alone (although there is the IBS Smart blood test that can diagnose IBS when diarrhea is predominant). The diagnostic criteria from the American College of Gastroenterology include:

Recurrent abdominal pain at least 1 day/week for 3 months associated with 2 of the following:

⏩ Related to defecation

⏩ Associated with a change in frequency of stool

⏩ Associated with a change in the form (appearance) of stool

These criteria should be fulfilled for three months with symptom onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis. Here are 9 symptoms and signs that point to IBS.

  1. Abdominal Pain and Cramping
  2. Diarrhea (30% of patients)
  3. Constipation (50% of patients)
  4. Alternating Constipation and Diarrhea (20% of patients)
  5. Bloating and Gas Pain
  6. Changes in Bowel Movements
  7. Intolerance to certain foods (70% of patients)
  8. Difficulty sleeping with resultant fatigue
  9. Depression and anxiety

Food intolerance is particularly common with symptoms triggered by gluten, FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols), lactose, stimulants, and caffeine. These are not food allergies but they can trigger the gas and bloating of IBS, particularly with the FODMAPS short chain sugars.

📋 Conventional knowledge says that IBS is caused by changes in the function of nerves and muscles that regulate sensation and gut motility.

💊 Even though some medications have been approved to manage IBS symptoms, none of them work for everybody. Bentyl (dicyclomine) is the most commonly used medication for IBS. It is an anticholinergic medication that blocks transmission of nerve impulses to muscles which can lead to some untoward side effects. Other medications approved for IBS are Lotronex, Viberzi, Amitiza, Xifaxan, and Linzess. I’ll discuss medications and supplements for IBS in an upcoming post.

🌱 Functional medicine looks deeper to understand WHY those functional changes are happening. Because we want to address the root cause.

Watch for my upcoming posts. I’ll be helping you understand the most common root causes of IBS, nutritional support for the gut, and a simple exercise to alleviate digestive struggles.

If you want 1:1 health consulting to discover the cause of your IBS symptoms, I am available at bryanjtreacymd@gmail.com or at www.healthwithoutrisk.com.

#ibsawareness2022 #ibsawareness #ibsawarenessmonth #guthealth #functionalgut #irritablebowelsyndrome #IBS #abdominalcramping #abdominalpain #constipation #diarrhea #askdrtreacy #healthwithoutrisk


Staller KD. Continuing Medical Education Questions: January 2021. Am J Gastroenterol. 2021; 116: 16. [link]



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Bryan Treacy MD

Bryan Treacy MD

For 31 years I worked as a traditional Ob/Gyn physician in allopathic medicine. I quit medicine and became a health consultant/coach, writer, and teacher.