April is IBS Awareness Month: The Toll IBS Takes on People’s Lives
April is “IBS Awareness Month” (as declared by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) in 1997). During this time, we focus attention on important health messages about IBS.
Many people, including some physicians, unfortunately, still overlook or do not recognize IBS as “real”. However, IBS affects many people around the world and the symptoms are real!
To help increase awareness, I have dedicated today’s blog to some lesser-known facts about IBS.
Facts you might not know about IBS – Statistics, and observations from my experience working with IBS clients:
- IBS is estimated to affect 10-15% of the population in the US (between 25 and 45 million people).And 7-15% of people worldwide.
- Only 5-7% of IBS sufferers have been diagnosed (side note: IBS can only be diagnosed by a medical professional).
- IBS is the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists. Unfortunately, the journey that takes to a diagnosis is too long. In a survey, nearly 2,000 IBS patients reported it took on average 6.6 years to be diagnosed after the symptoms began.
- IBS runs in the family. Those with a relative with IBS are twice as likely to have IBS than those without.
- Although IBS affects people of all ages and genders, 2 out of 3 sufferers are women. Most people are diagnosed before the age of 50. Still, many older adults suffer as well.
About 90% of my clients are women and I have seen people of ages ranging from 23 to 82!
Quality of Life
- IBS can severely impact the quality of life. IBS patients have lower measures of physical, social, and emotional well-being than healthy people or those with other chronic illnesses.
Due to the severity of symptoms, people mostly report IBS affecting their ability to leave their homes, go to school or perform their job. In a 2009 survey, IBS patients reported restricting activities on average 20% of days (73) in a year.
- In an international survey of ~2,000 people with IBS, sufferers said they would give up 25% of their remaining life (10-15 years), in exchange for a treatment that would make them symptom-free.
What my clients tell me
Living with IBS greatly affects what they can or cannot do. IBS affects not just them but the people around them – spouses, family, and friends. For example, it’s hard to be intimate with your partner when you feel bloated and look 5 months pregnant.
They give up traveling because their symptoms get worse when they cannot prepare most of their food. Some people are afraid to leave the house or terrified of being stuck in traffic because they need to be near a bathroom at all times.
Others don’t schedule any meetings or outings before 10 am as they need 1-2 hours in the bathroom to get ready to leave their house (due to constipation or diarrhea). They miss birthday parties or dinners out with friends for fear the food would trigger their gut symptoms.
Ibs Awareness Month: Final words
IBS is a chronic condition and there is no “cure” but symptoms can be managed with a variety of tools. With good management strategies, some people can improve to the point of not meeting the diagnostic criteria anymore. A multidisciplinary approach, addressing diet, stress, lifestyle, and medications, is ideal for achieving the best and most lasting results.
Help me spread the word by sharing this blog with someone you know. Even though they don’t have IBS – they might know someone who does. I made it my life’s mission to help people with IBS find relief from symptoms and live a full, vibrant life. If one or more of the things I mentioned in this blog is true for you and you want a clear roadmap to break free from IBS once and for all…