Celebrate IBS Awareness Month 2015 this April

Woman helps raise awareness for IBS awareness monthAre you living with persistent gas or abdominal pain? You might have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and you’re not alone. This gastrointestinal disorder is common, but it often goes undiagnosed. Why? People are often not comfortable talking about their symptoms (even with their doctor) and they don’t realize these indicate a real medical disorder.

This is why IBS Awareness Month was started in 1997. Since then, organizations like the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) have worked to promote awareness around IBS treatment, diagnosis and lifestyle related issues. Local communities are encouraged to get involved this year in supporting this worthy cause.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome affects an estimated 20% of adults in the US— it’s more prevalent than most realize. Many IBS patients live their daily lives based on how their digestive system is behaving. This means that a flare-up could leave someone bedridden in serious pain for hours.

The exact cause of this condition is still not clear, but IBS clinical trials have helped identify several likely culprits, including:

  • The patient’s brain is abnormally sensitive to natural gastric contractions
  • The patient’s colon is abnormally sensitive
  • Their immune system has an abnormal response to stress factors and infection
  • The patient’s IBS symptoms were triggered by specific hormonal fluctuations (women tend to be more susceptible to IBS)

Some Fast Facts about IBS

  • IBS affects somewhere between 25 and 45 million americans.
  • 2 of every 3 cases are diagnosed in women
  • Most people with IBS are under the age of 50
  • IBS is unpredictable (symptoms can even be contradictory in nature)
  • About 20 to 40% of all visits to gastroenterologists are in response to IBS symptoms
  • IBS can only be diagnosed by a medical professional
IBS 3d diagram showing abdominal pain points

Abdominal pain is a red flag for irritable bowel syndrome.

Common IBS Symptoms

The most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Excessive gas and bloating
  • Significant changes in normal bowel movement patterns
  • Abdominal pain following a bowel movement
  • The presence of mucus in stool

(You can check out our IBS Symptoms page for a more comprehensive list.)

If you’ve experienced any of the following symptoms for an extended period of time (6 months or so), you should consider getting tested for IBS:

  • Abdominal pain that last for at least 3 days each month
  • Pain is relieved following a bowel movement
  • Pain seems to change in conjuction with varying stool consistency
  • Pain associated with fluctuation in bowel movement patterns

Please note that irritable bowel syndrome is not caused by a structural problem in your body. Unfortunately, this has led many to believe their issues are just in their head. The causes may not be structural, but they are real and they can be addressed to help suppress symptoms.

Family prepares an IBS-friendly meal

Your IBS symptoms can be controlled through dieting.

Lifestyle Tips for IBS

Here are some great tips for controlling your irritable bowel syndrome on a daily basis:

  • Stress may not cause IBS, but it can easily exacerbate your symptoms. You NEED to find ways to effectively implement relaxation techniques into your daily lives. (Here’s a great guide to help you get started)
  • Sleep is so important, but your IBS symptoms could prevent you from getting the restful sleep you need. Here are a few ways you could improve your sleeping habits this April:
    • Keep a consistent wake up schedule
    • Practice a relaxation technique before bed
    • Avoid any caffeine up to 4 hours before bedtime
  • If you’ve been struggling with constipation, make sure you have a quality breakfast. Studies have shown that this is the meal which will most likely stimulate your colon and lead to a bowel movement.
  • Speaking of your diet, this is one of the most important aspects to controlling your symptoms. We highly recommend trying the elimination diet in order to identify your trigger foods. You can find a great guide here to help you get started.
  • Medications that are opioid based may help relieve chronic pain, but they can also cause chronic constipation. You should not be taking any morphine or oxycodone if you have been diagnosed with IBS. For a comprehensive list of doctor-approved IBS treatments, click here.

Getting Involved in IBS Awareness Month 2015

Are you interested in getting involved in your community for IBS Awareness Month this year? You’ll be directly contributing to more funding for research, improved education and patient care. Here are some ways you can get involved in your community this year:

  • Share IFFGD’s 2015 IBS Awareness Month press release on social media
  • Contact your local legislators to let them know about your community’s support for IBS research
  • Lend your voice to the Digestive Health Alliance
  • Share your personal story with IBS and encourage others to do the same

Have you been suffering from any of these symptoms? It’s time to speak up about your symptoms this April. You are not alone and there are many sources of support out there for IBS patients. We encourage you to take these first steps: talking to your doctor and show your support for IBS Awareness Month.