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The Elusive Epidemic

By Kay Daly

Intro | Funky | Diagnosis | Expert | What Next | Strategize

Do you have a tummy ache that never seems to go away? Do you wish your gut would just calm down and let you live your life? If so, you’re not alone. You may suffer from a widespread but often overlooked ailment: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS.

IBS is an intestinal-based “syndrome,” a collection of symptoms that can vary from patient to patient. These symptoms can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • cramping
  • bloating
  • flatulence
  • nausea
  • diarrhea or constipation, or both in alternation
  • a persistent need to evacuate the bowels
  • irregular stools that are too loose, too hard, or accompanied by mucus

Symptoms also vary in intensity. For some, IBS is incredibly severe and interferes with normal life. Sufferers avoid extended errands like shopping trips because they never know when they’ll need to run to the bathroom or be incapacitated by pain. For others, the symptoms are milder but still aggravating.

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), IBS affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population. Experts estimate that 60 to 70 percent of sufferers are women.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that it’s so widespread, IBS has proven difficult to diagnose and treat. According to IBS sufferer and expert Heather Van Vorous, the average IBS patient sees three physicians over a three-year period before receiving a diagnosis but may have suffered symptoms for many years prior to even seeking medical help.

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