According to estimates, about 13 million Britons suffer from IBS.
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is one of the most underestimated, widespread disorders in industrialized countries. It is characterized by chronic digestive problems that can be annoying or can even be a great physical and psychological burden for patients.
IBS patients suffer from diverse symptoms: Some patients suffer from constipation, others from diarrhoea. Bloating or abdominal cramps can occur repeatedly as well. Many patients experience the symptoms again and again over a longer period of time. The different symptoms can occur in alternation or simultaneously. IBS can have many faces. The digestive problems even go so far as to dictate the daily routine in the case of some IBS patients. Thus, the quality of life of those affected can be significantly impaired.
And what is almost as heavy a burden for many: Many IBS patients feel left alone and not taken seriously. They are ridiculed or even labelled as malingerers all too often.
Wrongly so: IBS has already preoccupied specialists for more than 100 years. The disorder was first described in 1849 and has become a major focus of gastrointestinal research.
For a long time researchers looking for the causes of IBS were groping in the dark.
Latest research finally shed some more light into the matter: Typical intestinal problems associated with IBS are increasingly being attributed to an impaired intestinal wall. Today, more and more researchers are convinced that chronic digestive problems are caused by small damages of the intestinal wall. These damages may be responsible for pollutants and pathogens finding their way into the intestinal wall and causing tiny inflammations which, in turn, irritate the intestinal nervous system. Thus, the function of the intestinal nervous system becomes impaired.
It will start giving the “intestinal muscles” wrong instructions, whereby the latter will either dilate or contract too fast, too slowly or at the wrong time. These wrong muscle movements can trigger off the typical symptoms of IBS. To put it simply: Sometimes the intestine moves too slowly causing constipation. Other times it moves too fast and the result is diarrhoea. Cramps occur if the musculature contracts excessively. In addition, flatulence occurs as a concomitant effect. Since disruptions to the intestinal wall are not all that easy to detect, IBS can only be diagnosed with a lot of difficulty to date.