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”.
FACTS ABOUT IBS
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.