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      April is IBS Awareness Month

      It’s time to get comfortable talking about IBS

      Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – more than 45 million people in the United States suffer from this common disorder, and it’s a subject few of us want to talk about.

      Some important stats:

      1. Approximately 20 – 40% of all visits to gastroenterologists are for IBS symptoms
      2. About two in three IBS sufferers are female/li>
      3. IBS is one of the most burdensome chronic ailments reported by patients/li>
      4. Individuals with IBS restrict their activities an average of 73 days of the year/li>
      5. In a survey conducted by IFFGD, nearly 2,000 patients reported that they suffered from IBS symptoms for more than six years before being diagnosed. source: International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD)/li>

      In 1997, IFFGD designated April as IBS Awareness Month on the U.S. National Health Observances calendar. In recognition of IBS Awareness Month, here are the top five common IBS questions patients ask RGA doctors:

      1. What causes IBS?
        What causes IBS is unknown currently. There are, however, factors that are known to increase the risk of getting IBS such as:
        1. Your age – people under 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with IBS and have their first symptoms between their teen years and their forties
        2. Genetics – if a parent has IBS, you have a higher chance of also being diagnosed with this condition
        3. Stress – The amount of stress you have – or had – in your life
        4. Food sensitivity – Trouble digesting foods like wheat or dairy can be associated with IBS

      2. What are the most common symptoms of IBS?
        While IBS affects everyone differently, the most common symptoms are abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea, and gas. People typically deal with symptoms for a long time before diagnosis because they are usually not severe.

      3. Can stress make my symptoms worse?
        Unfortunately, stress can elevate the severity and frequency of your IBS symptoms. Researchers have found a common thread of patients with IBS who have traumatic and stressful events happen in their lives.

      4. Does diet affect my IBS?
        Yes, but we don’t know why Because IBS affects people differently, foods also impact individuals uniquely. More research needs to be done to understand which foods to avoid. Working with your doctor and a registered dietician can help you determine what foods trigger your symptoms.

      5. How do I tell the difference between my IBS symptoms and something else?
        IBS symptoms can often overlap with other GI conditions, which is why it is important to see a healthcare provider. Symptoms can be triggered by stress and can be worse after eating. They include:
        1. Stools that are watery, hard, lumpy or contain mucus
        2. Diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both
        3. A feeling that bowel movements are incomplete
        4. Heartburn or discomfort after eating normal-sized meals
        5. Frequent bathroom emergencies

      Being in tune with your body and recognizing the symptoms you are experiencing is an important step in determining if you are suffering from IBS or another condition. There is no reason to suffer in silence. Instead, keep track of your symptoms and talk to your doctor. You may be referred to a gastroenterologist for additional evaluation.