Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal condition characterized by cramps, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. No one knows exactly what causes IBS, but we do know it involves a malfunction of the large intestine. Nerves and muscles in the large intestine may contract too much or be overly sensitive to certain stimuli such as foods or stress. As a result, stool may pass too quickly or slowly through the intestines, resulting in diarrhea or constipation.
For sufferers, IBS can be extremely disruptive. The unpredictability and discomfort of the symptoms can make it hard for you to travel, do your job, or socialize with friends. But as annoying as it is, the condition does not cause permanent damage to the intestines and does not lead to serious diseases such as cancer.
As many as 20 percent of all adults in the United States suffer from IBS, and most of them are women. The condition afflicts approximately 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia. If you have these symptoms, however, don't just assume you have IBS. These can also be symptoms of other intestinal diseases. Be sure to get checked out by an intestinal specialist, known as a gastroenterologist.
Younger people who suffer from persistent diarrhea should be checked for inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's disease. Crohn's is a chronic autoimmune condition, in which the body attacks its gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms typically come and go, and the disease is treated with a combination of medications and dietary modifications.