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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowels

Irritable bowel syndrome is a fairly common disorder of the digestive system that changes the normal functioning of the bowels. It afflicts as many as one in five adults in the United States. Since it is a functional disorder, there is nothing to be seen on x-rays, blood tests or other tests to diagnose it.


This disorder is characterized by a group of symptoms that have been experienced for at least 12 weeks out of the past 12 months. These symptoms always include abdominal pain along with two of the following possibilities: pain or discomfort that is relieved by defecation; a change in the appearance of the stools; and a change in the frequency of bowel movements. Other symptoms that are not definitive include cramps, gas, bloating, constipation, mucus in the stool and diarrhea.


The cause of this disorder is not known and there is no cure. Some doctors think there may be a relation to the amount of stress or emotional conflict a person is experiencing. In IBS patients, doctors have discovered that the colon is extremely sensitive and begins to spasm after only mild stimulation. Women with this disorder may experience worse symptoms during their period, which suggests that reproductive hormones may also stimulate IBS.


If the symptoms of IBS are accompanied by bleeding, fever, weight loss and persistent severe pain, it may indicate other, more severe problems. See your doctor and get it checked out.

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