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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or spastic colon is a functional disorder that affects the bowel or parts of the gastro-intestinal tract. After colds, IBS is one of the most common health problems found in people. It has also been called nervous colon syndrome. It tends to be a chronic disorder, and the symptoms can come and go over many years. For some people, IBS represents mild discomfort, while for others it is a disabling condition, with the sufferer unable to work normal hours or unable to attend social events. However, in many cases of IBS people are able to control their symptoms through dietary and lifestyle changes, stress management and prescribed or natural medicines. Irritable bowel syndrome is believed to be an over-reactive response of the digestive system, especially the colon, to emotional triggers.IBS could present with symptoms related to bowel function, such as abdominal bloating, indigestion, cramping and wind, mucus in stools, diarrhea, alternating with constipation and irregular bowel habits. People suffering from IBS are often concerned that it could lead to colon cancer. The symptoms are related to abnormal muscle contractions in any part of the intestinal tract. A spastic colon does not adversely affect longevity or lead to more serious bowel diseases such as colon cancer, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease).IBS is one of the most frequently diagnosed gastro-intestinal disorders and accounts for almost a third of all cases seen by gastro-enterologists. Up to 15% of the general population has IBS, although only about 20% of this group will ever seek medical attention. Only a small percentage has chronic symptoms. The symptoms of IBS typically occur early in life and half of those affected experience the symptoms before they reach the age of 30. Among adolescents, 5% males and 14% females are affected by IBS, while among adults, 19% males and 24% females are affected.


IBS tends to be more common in the following people:
  • Younger than 35 – if symptoms occur for the first time after this age, a diagnosis of IBS becomes unlikely.
  • With panic and/or anxiety disorder.
  • A positive family history of IBS.
  • With a history of physical or sexual abuse or other psychological trauma.

There is no known cause of IBS. Most symptoms are related to abnormal muscle movement or spasm of the lower part of the colon. Dietary, psychological, hormonal or genetic factors may play a role.

There is no specific diagnostic test for IBS, but a number of tests can rule out other conditions, such as food allergies, intestinal infections, parasites, diverticular disease, colon cancer, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It is important, therefore, if you experience any of the listed symptoms, to consult with your family doctor for a thorough medical examination and necessary tests to confirm the diagnosis.

More links on IBS :
Irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon)
Symptoms, what can cause or exacerbate some of the symptoms and when to see a doctor
Natural treatment options
Nutritional supplements, natural or complementary remedies to help treat some of the symptoms of IBS
Stress and Mind-body treatment options that have proven very successful for IBS

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