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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects approximately 10-20% of the general population. It is the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians.

Sometimes irritable bowel syndrome is called a spastic colon, mucous colitis, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, or irritable colon.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disturbance in the regulation of bowel function that results in unusual sensitivity and muscle activity. Everyone suffers from an occasional bowel disturbance. However, for those with irritable bowel syndrome the symptoms are more severe, or occur more often - either continuously or off and on.

Irritable bowel syndrome is generally classified as a "functional" disorder and a multi-faceted disorder. In people with irritable bowel syndrome, symptoms result from what appears to be a disturbance in the interaction between the gut or intestines, the brain, and the autonomic nervous system that alters regulation of bowel motility (motor function) or sensory function.

Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by symptoms of abdominal discomfort or pain, usually in the lower abdomen (although the location and intensity are variable, even at different times within the same person), and altered bowel habit (change in frequency or consistency) - chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or both in alternation.

    These characteristics are commonly associated with irritable bowel syndrome:
    1) It is relieved with defecation
    2) Onset is associated with a change in frequency of stool
    3) Onset is associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool
    4) Abnormal stool frequency (greater than 3 bowel movements/day or less than 3 bowel movements/week)
    5) Abnormal stool form (lumpy/hard or loose/watery stool)
    6) Abnormal stool passage (straining, urgency, or feeling of incomplete evacuation)
    7) Passage of mucus
    8) Bloating or feeling of abdominal distension

Up to one in five American adults has irritable bowel syndrome. The disorder accounts for more than one out of every 10-doctor visits. For most people, signs and symptoms of irritable bowel disease are mild. Only a small percentage of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms.

Fortunately, unlike more serious intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome doesn't cause inflammation or changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer. In many cases, you can control IBS by managing your diet, lifestyle and stress.

No one knows exactly which factors cause irritable bowel syndrome. Some experts believe irritable bowel syndrome is triggered by changes in the nerves that control sensation or muscle contractions in the bowel. Others believe the central nervous system may affect the colon. Because women are two to three times more likely than men to have irritable bowel syndrome, scientists believe that hormonal changes also play a role.

Sometimes another medical condition, such as gastroenteritis can trigger irritable bowel syndrome. Antibiotic use also may be a factor because antibiotics disrupt the normal bacterial flora living in your bowel. Excessive use of laxatives and even some antidiarrheal medications may be the cause of the problem as well.


Gastrointestinal Disorders Are Associated Significantly With Sleepless Nights; Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Frequent (American Psychological Association)
ROCHESTER, Minn., Dec. 10 (AScribe Newswire) -- Mayo Clinic researchers report in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings an association between gastrointestinal disorders and sleep disturbances.

Gastrointestinal disorders are associated significantly with sleepless nights (Medical News Today)
Irritable bowel syndrome, frequent indigestion common in people with insomnia - Mayo Clinic researchers report in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings an association between gastrointestinal disorders and sleep disturbances.

New Remedies for a Frustrating Illness. But Do They Work? (New York Times)
Two drugs approved for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome may or may not work for the 45 million Americans who suffer from the disorder.

Celiac disease can be managed (Ukiah Daily Journal)
By now, most Americans are familiar with diabetes and the special diet that diabetics follow as a way of life. The same does not hold true for celiac disease, however. The two afflictions are similar in that they require those affected to alter their food intake.