Saturday, May 07, 2011

IBS - More common among women than men

Dr Parul R Sheth
Posted On Monday, May 02, 2011   

Rekha Naik, 35 years old is suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for the past ten years. “I have been having digestive problems for so long; almost life-long! Every time I eat, I get heartburn, abdominal distension and cramps. I am so tired and I feel miserable,” states Rekha. Like Rekha there are many people who may be inflicted with IBS. For some the signs and symptoms of IBS may be mild but could be disabling for others.
According to Dr OP Kapoor, Hon Visiting Physician, Jaslok Hospital and Bombay Hospital, Mumbai and Dr Sharad Shah, Hon Gastroenterologist, Sir HN Hospital, Mumbai, IBS when properly diagnosed affects 15-20% of our population and people with IBS form nearly 50% of the cases seen in gastrointestinal clinics all over the world.
The good part is that even though the effects of IBS are uncomfortable and can be hard to live with, the disorder will not permanently harm the intestines or lead to a more-serious disease as reported by The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, US.
More common in women
According to the National Institutes of Health, IBS is two times more common in women than in men and people with IBS seem to have colons that are more sensitive and reactive than usual, so they respond to triggers that would not bother most people. Genetics and heredity plays a role. You may be at a higher risk of IBS if it runs in the family although you cannot predict whether a child of an affected parent will develop the disease. But the chances are about one in twenty that a blood relative also has IBS; either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
For many women IBS worsens during or around the menstrual period suggesting the role of hormonal changes in causing IBS. A research team from London and Japan led by Professor Qasim Aziz, of the Wingate Institute for Neurogastroenterology, Queen Mary University of London found that women have more intense responses to pain of chronic conditions such as IBS than men.
Dr Philip Abraham, consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist, PD Hinduja National Hospital, Professor, Department of gastroenterology, KEM Hospital, Mumbai puts up his views that there is a notable difference in India; it occurs more frequently in men as compared to women, which is the opposite of what is reported from elsewhere in the world. This may be either because men are truly more commonly affected or that they report to doctors with a lower threshold.
Signs of IBS
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Diarrhoea or constipation, at times alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhoea
  • Gas, flatulence, a bloated feeling
  • Mucus in the stool
What happens and why?Wrong diet habits, certain foods, medications, anxiety, overwork and stress - all can trigger IBS. Up to 40% of people with IBS may have lactose intolerance; inability to digest the sugars found in milk and milk products. Sometimes other illnesses, such as an acute gastroenteritis can act as a trigger. A weak immune system may be responsible in triggering IBS.
The causes of IBS are not known. It affects the large intestine or colon causing irregular bowel movements. The walls of the intestines are lined with muscle layers. As the food that you eat moves from your stomach to the intestines and into your rectum, these muscles contract and relax in co-ordination.  With IBS the muscle contractions become stronger and last longer than normal causing the food to be forced through your intestines more quickly resulting in gas, bloating and diarrhoea.
At times with IBS, the opposite occurs when the food passage slows, stools become hard and dry giving rise to constipation. Problems with your nervous system or colon also may make you experience more discomfort.

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