The bloating. The cramping. The diarrhea or constipation. The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can do more than ruin your day.
“Patients with IBS will often avoid social settings for fear their symptoms will act up. They may withdraw from things they enjoy,” said Internal Medicine physician Crystal Tuncay, D.O. IBS is actually quite common, with up to 20 percent of American adults suffering from IBS symptoms, said Dr. Tuncay. “We see about twice as many women as men with IBS and about half of the patients with IBS experience their first symptoms before they turn 35,” she said.
What is IBS? IBS is a condition that interferes with normal intestinal functions. Dr. Tuncay explains that the walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm, moving food from your stomach through the intestinal tract. With IBS, the contractions may be stronger and last longer than normal, forcing food through more quickly and causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. In some cases the opposite happens and food moves too slowly, causing stools to become hard and dry.
Defining “normal” According to Dr. Tuncay, you can’t judge your bathroom habits by anyone else’s standards. The average person produces 1-4 pints of urine a day and passes gas 14 times. It’s also normal for the consistency and frequency of your bowel movements to vary somewhat. The difference for IBS patients is that their bowel patterns are painful and create lifestyle challenges.