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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the common intestinal and chronic disorder most frequently reported to and encountered by gastro-enterologists. It is also called irritable or spastic colon. The incidence of IBS has been reported to be anywhere from 9-22%, 10-22% or 20% of the American population (Masand 1998). Computing, these numbers suggest that about one out of five Americans suffers from it (Nutrition Forum 1997).
Comparative studies also show that IBS occurs more in women than men at a 2.5:1 ratio (Bone 2001), starts in early adolescence, reaches a mean of 46 and seldom begin after 50 (Nutrition Forum). No significant differences in demographic characteristics have been observed, although most of those who sought medical assistance had high school education and mostly working (Masand). Nothing indicates that there are differences of marital status among those studied.
IBS occurs most frequency at times of emotional stress and these studies furthermore say that IBS sufferers have been victims of physical, drug or child abuse. They have been Also sought medical help and attention for some psychiatric disabilities, mainly major depression and panic disorder, or they have been subjected to alcohol abuse or dependence at 41.9% (Masand). There has been additional evidence to illustrate the link of IBS to a history of emotional abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse. Investigations suggested that the relationship between the abuser and the victim may clue in on preceding factors, which lead to neuroticism and eventually, in developing IBS.
IBS has been observed to occur during times of stress at 50% (Bone), particularly premenstrual and perimenstrual phases, bringing attention to the significant role played by female hormones (Bone) and laying emphasis on IBS as more predominant in women. Female hormones, then, play that significant role in the condition, as the bottom line of a double-blind placebo-controlled study, which showed that a decrease in the production of sex hormone production and the suppression of the pituitary function improves the condition of women afflicted with IBS. Men, on the other hand, have lower levels of this hormone, and therefore, tend to possess symptoms inversely related to their testosterone levels, if they have IBS.
Those with IBS have been found to be hypersensitive to visceral stimuli, which implies that they are unable to moderate pain signals from the gastrointestinal tract (Kirn
2001). Sleep is likewise a problem to them at 80%, reinforcing the assumption that IBS is, indeed, a functional disorder. Experts experimented on a sampling of IBS sufferers by subjecting them to an eight-week program on stress management, which introduced breathing techniques and focused visual imagery. The regimen resulted in reduced medical consultations, owing to improved conditions in the patients (Kirn). Findings confirm that those afflicted by IBS - just like sleep disturbances and other functional disorders -- are mostly women.
Statistics reveal that IBS also occurs most frequently among those who work, and severe IBS results in missed work days as well as strained social activities (Nutrition Forum). When someone said that IBS is chronic and life-altering with significant impact on daily lives, he or she said it right. IBS is said to cost as much as $29 billion annually in health care (PR Newswire). It is ranked as the second leading cause of absenteeism, next only to the common cold. Calculating from given figures, this means that the condition affects 1 in five Americans who work. And not many of them secure medical attention or help, but try to go it by themselves. Those who consult with doctors also drop out after obtaining information and instruction, although the condition continues.
A recent investigation into the incidence of IBS in the workplace or among those who work was conducted on 51 volunteers by a team. The subjects' ages ranged from 16-72 and who were cooks, teachers, health aides, office workers and executive officials. The subjects reported that their condition started in early childhood, during which they also suffered from constipation frequently through the elementary grades (Bertram 2001). They also said that the condition often made them go to the clinic for treatment. Subjects were of mixed races: white, black, Hispanic and others. The majority of IBS sufferers were white, according to the investigation.
IBS to them was a scourge, especially in their current working situation and social life. While they were able to identify the stressors that led to their misery, they believed that they had little control over them (Bertram). Some foods that triggered it sometimes did not lead to it, and the condition was exasperating and discouraging to them.
They applied self-regulated symptomatic treatments, including anti-diarrheal drugs, fiber and bran, and antidepressant drugs. It appeared that stress induced IBS because the subjects needed to work and their condition interfered with it.
Majority of those investigated said that IBS decreased their productivity, damaged or reduced their quality of work due to the length of time they spent in the bathroom, and missing working days. Symptoms, like cramps and diarrhea, disabled them, but it was difficult to discuss the symptoms or the condition itself with supervisors or co-workers. Those who attempted to discuss the situation were met by isolation: co-workers or supervisors were unsympathetic. They suspected that it was just an excuse for laziness. This lack of understanding also created unnecessary solitude among the victims.
IBS also affected their social lives and interactions. It was increasingly and especially difficult to attend social functions or merely to go out and see people out of fear of an IBS attack in the middle of the engagement or activity. There was always a search for a nearby toilet or bathroom. It also creates trouble in the family or at home when one must give up time doing some chores and spend it in the toilet or bathroom. Episodes were weekly to monthly and lasting hours to a few days. It was the anticipation for the next episode that put them on their toes and made them very anxious and embarrassed. Caught in between, most of them would choose to stay away from an unsettling situation in public by omitting participation in social interactions or going out.
If not many of them consult with medical authorities, it is also partly because they viewed their physicians as not helping them very much (Bertram). Doctors were not all that sympathetic with their condition, or the medicine or remedy was ineffective or that the patients felt they were taken lightly or treated as unimportant. Some were told that nothing was wrong with them, and yet their distress was so real. At this stage, these patients turned pessimistic and frightened to go back to the doctor or seek help elsewhere.
Those with IBS are a scared, frustrated sector, made more scared and frustrated by losing work hours, incurring the displeasure of their employers and the antipathy of their workmates and friends.
A brain-gut connection has been suggested as behind this IBS misery. Electroencephalogram traces were inspected and traces were found and showed that they are greater in IBS sufferers at 29.2% than in non-sufferers. This difference was attributed to colonic motility in the sufferers, which established the connection (Bone).
Reinforcing what has already been said on the link of IBS and psychological factors, 50% of studied patients suffering from IBS indicated aggravated symptoms of stress. Authorities maintained that psychological factors were not predisposing to IBS, but banked on the results of studies made, which instead linked it to childhood abuse, depression and anxiety. Another study of 20 families lent support to the relationship between IBS and mental or emotional instability. It provided data on the prevalence of the condition among the subjects' or patients' relatives themselves (Bone).
Another phenomenalogic study of 22 women with fibromyalgia, an accompanying complaint with IBS, was also conducted recently on the subject of vulnerability. The subjects expressed feelings of helplessness and…[continue]
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