April is IBS Awareness Month - What you may not know about IBS


In honor of April being “IBS Awareness Month”, I have compiled a few facts about IBS, either reported by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) or from my review of the literature.

I also want to share an excellent article written on last month’s Berkeley Wellness Letter (I don’t think it’s a coincidence!): The ABCs of IBS. This article stresses the importance of a Low FODMAP diet in the management of symptoms and re-iterates that “because the diet is so restrictive and hard to follow, it’s best done under the guidance of a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who is knowledgeable about the diet and can ensure that it’s done in a healthful fashion”.


  • IBS is estimated to affect 7-15% people worldwide - 8% of people living in North America and Europe suffer from IBS

  • IBS accounts for an estimated 36% of patients seen in gastroenterology practices

  • 60-65% of those who suffer from IBS are women

  • IBS can severely impact the quality of life: IBS patients have lower measures of physical, social, and emotional wellbeing 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 home, 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

  • The most frequently reported symptoms are pain, bowel difficulties, and bloating: imagine having symptoms similar to stomach flu on a chronic basis – abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, or bloating that wax and wane but never permanently go away

  • There is no cure as of yet: treatments are aimed at alleviating symptoms. Medications currently approved for IBS may work for some, but not all patients.

  • The cost of IBS is high. Direct costs of IBS have been estimated to be approximately $1.5 billion and as high as $10 billion adjusted costs (excluding the costs of prescription and over-the-counter drugs)

  • Indirect costs, including missed work and decreased work productivity, of IBS have been estimated as high as $20 billion annually based only on IBS patients who sought medical attention

  • In research studies, a low FODMAP diet has shown to benefit 75% of people who tried it. Improvements are seen as early as within one week and persist long term with a personalized (not as restrictive) version of the diet.