The Lowdown on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS research studyAccording to statistics gathered by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders:

• An estimated 10-15% of the worldwide population is affected by IBS.
• Of these, about 40% have mild IBS, 35% moderate, and 25% severe.
• 60-65% of those reporting IBS are female.
• IBS is the most common disorder diagnosed by gastroenterologists in the U.S., accounting for up to 12% of total visits to primary care providers.
• An estimated $21 billion or more annually is spent in terms of medical expenses and the cost of work absenteeism and loss of productivity.

IBS, which stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also known as spastic colon, is a common chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder affecting the large intestine. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defines IBS as “a group of symptoms that occur together, including repeated pain in your abdomen and changes in your bowel movements, which may be diarrhea, constipation, or both. With IBS, you have these symptoms without any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract.” Symptoms of IBS can include abdominal cramping and pain, fullness, gas and bloating, change in bowel habits, alternative diarrhea or constipation, and mucus in the stool. Most people with IBS experience times where symptoms are worse, and times when symptoms improve or even go away completely. Triggers can range from the consumption of certain foods and beverages, stress, and hormones.

The cause of IBS is unknown, but there are several factors that may contribute, including stronger, longer lasting, or weak intestinal contractions; abnormalities in the digestive system nerves, leading to a disconnect between the signals from the brain to the intestines; intestinal inflammation; severe infection; and changes in the microflora bacteria in the gut.

IBS occurs more frequently in people under the age of 50 and more commonly in women. Estrogen therapy also increases risk. Having a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression or a history are associated with increased risk, and a history of abuse also might be a risk factor. Having a family member with IBS may increase risk, but that could be due to genetics or environment, or a combination of both.

Non-medical treatments for IBS include exercise, better sleep, reducing stress, dietary changes, and therapies such as behavioral or physical, biofeedback, and relaxation or pain management techniques. Over-the-counter medications and supplements may be used to treat specific symptoms, such as soluble fiber, laxatives, loperamide, anticholinergic agents, and probiotics.

Medical treatments include anti-spasmodic medication and low doses of antidepressants. Some prescription drugs are available for reducing overall
symptoms, including alosetron, eluxadoline, lubiprostone, and linaclotide. No single medication works the same for everyone.

Increased research funding and participation in clinical studies is the best way to discover new and effective treatments for IBS. Meridien Research has IBS research studies enrolling now at our Tampa clinic. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us at 888.777.8839 or visit our study pages today.
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