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What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS can interfere with everyday life. But what is it and how can it be treated? Find out from House Call Doctor.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
January 23, 2013
Episode #111

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Since we learned all about the colon in last week’s episode, I thought I’d discuss a common topic that I often encounter in my practice that involves the colon – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Imagine you’re on a hot date at an exotic restaurant. You knew it may not be the best idea to go there, but you didn’t want to disappoint your date so you agreed to go. Then, sometime after digging into the first course of spinach curry dip, you abruptly find yourself needing to run to the bathroom. You leave your date mid-sentence in a key moment of the heart-wrenching tale about how the family dog died. But what can you do? You have to go – and when you have to go, you have to go quite urgently…number 2, that is. Does this sound like the scene in a funny movie? Yes, but in reality, it’s more common than you think!

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Does this happen to you every time you indulge in your favorite foods? If so, you probably suffer from a very common medical condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

What is IBS?

IBS affects up to 10% of the U.S. population and is 1.5 times more common in women. It tends to happen more in young people, those under the age of 40 (hence, those in the dating pool).

If your date reveals the following oh-so-attractive symptoms on your first date, he or she may be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

  • Abdominal discomfort, often described as cramping or bloating

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Flip-flopping between diarrhea and constipation

  • Pain that’s relieved by having a bowel movement

  • A feeling of incomplete evacuation of the bowels

  • Mucus in the stool

  • Urgency to defecate

During this hot topic of first-date conversation, you can assure him or her that in order to meet criteria for an IBS diagnosis, the following also need to be met:

  1. Symptoms occur at least 3 days per month

  2. Symptoms last for 3 months minimum

  3. The absence of any other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms

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