Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic disorder (a long-term problem that could potentially last for life) that affects your gastrointestinal tract and intestines. It is a condition that is characterized by a recurring problem in your stomach and bowels, often marked by regular bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation, stomach pain, and spasms, bloating and gas etc.
In effect, people who suffer from IBS have intestines that either squeeze too hard or do not squeeze hard enough to eject waste materials from their body. Thus, there is a lack of the normal continual rhythm that characterizes the average human digestive system.
Research suggests that IBS sufferers appear to have a colon that is somehow more sensitive to a variety of different stimuli that have little or no effect on people who do not suffer from the condition. For example, certain foods that have no effect on other people can cause big problems for IBS sufferers. Furthermore, stress is also known to be an extremely important contributory factor for many sufferers.
On top of this, there is some evidence that the immune system, the system body that fights infection and disease are also somehow involved in deciding who suffers from IBS and who does will not. It seems likely that the immune system also has a part to play in dictating how severe the condition is in any individual sufferer as well.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that most commonly hits people between the years of 20 and 30, with women being twice as likely to suffer from the condition as their male counterparts.
One of the major difficulties attached to dealing with the problem is that whilst many the symptoms are easily recognizable, the actual cause of irritable bowels syndrome has not been fully established. For example, there are no signs of physical disease in the colon of most IBS sufferers, whilst there are no specific tests that can be used to diagnose the condition either.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that for many IBS sufferers, the symptoms do deteriorate after eating or when they are under stress, so this is a consideration which your doctor will take into account if they were attempting to diagnose whether you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or not.
In addition, irritable bowel syndrome is not really one recognizable medical condition at all as the term is used as a blanket to cover many different medicals symptoms that would usually be seen as nothing more than an upset stomach were they to occur in isolation.
What this means is that every imaginable symptom that you could possibly conceive of as a result of suffering an upset stomach is a symptom that you can associate with irritable bowel syndrome as well.
As suggested, IBS is a condition that can persist for many years, but the good news is, the disorder itself does not tend to get more serious or severe over time. Whilst individual ‘attacks’ can vary in severity, the condition itself does not. Furthermore, under normal circumstances, IBS has nothing to do with and does not lead to more serious medical conditions such as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
It is a condition that has had several different monikers over the years, many of which are not normally used today.
Nevertheless, if you see reference to mucous colitis, nervous diarrhoea, spastic colon or spastic colitis, you can be sure that the writer (it will almost certainly only be in written materials that you will see these terms nowadays) is referring to irritable bowel syndrome.