Gut Health Facts #9
Around one in five Australians experiences the unpleasant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at some time. These include abdominal pain, mucus in the stools, and alternating diarrhoea and constipation. Other terms for irritable bowel syndrome include ‘spastic colon’ and ‘irritable colon’. It seems that people with IBS have sensitive bowels that are easily ‘upset’. More women than men are prone to IBS, and symptoms tend to first occur in early adulthood.
The cause is unknown, but environmental factors such as changes of routine, emotional stress, infection and diet can trigger an attack. Research has shown that the neurotransmitter serotonin may be important in the symptoms of IBS, by altering the function of nerve cells in the bowel and causing changes in pain sensation and bowel function.
Irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t cause lasting damage and doesn’t contribute to the development of serious bowel conditions, such as cancer or colitis.
Some of the more common signs of irritable bowel syndrome include:
abdominal pain or cramping that is often relieved by passing wind or faeces
alternating diarrhoea and constipation
a sensation that the bowels are not fully emptied after passing a motion
mucus present in the stools
None of these symptoms are exclusive to IBS. It is unusual for IBS to produce these symptoms, for the first time, after the age of 40.