In 1997, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) designated April as IBS Awareness Month. IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and affects as many as one in five American adults. IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people affected by chronic digestive conditions.
According to WebMD, “The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn't known. But health experts believe that faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms. In some people, this miscommunication causes abnormal muscle contractions or spasms, which often cause cramping pain.” The IFFGD says there are a number of factors which can cause the bowel to be overly reactive, such as: eating, stress, emotional arousal, GI infections, menstrual period, or gaseous distension.
For some people, IBS can be hard to talk about and many end up suffering in silence. Colleen Webb is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified LEAP Therapist (CLT) who specializes in personalized nutrition counseling for people with gastrointestinal conditions. She explains, "People with IBS can experience abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, fecal urgency, excessive and uncomfortable gas, mucus in the stool, and a feeling of incomplete bowel movements. These physical symptoms take a serious toll on one’s quality of life as do the psychological and financial burdens. Because IBS is not a life-threatening illness, too many people, mostly women, are quickly dismissed by their physicians, often made to feel like they’re crazy. You’re not crazy. IBS is a very real disorder.”
If you’re looking for more information, here are six dedicated organizations who support the IBS community:
1. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
IFFGD is a registered nonprofit education and research organization whose mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. They provide resources, medical research updates, tips and daily living advice, and share ways you can get involved in their advocacy efforts.
2. Digestive Health Alliance
DHA is a branch of IFFGD dedicated to “improving treatment options and finding cures for functional GI and motility disorders.” Follow them on Twitter @WeAreDHA for patient stories, news, and information about laws related to motility disorders.
3. The IBS Network
This UK-based organization is the only dedicated charity that supports people with IBS. As a member, you'll get access to a nurse helpline or submit questions online to a team of health care professionals. The IBS Network also has a self-care program and resources to find or start a support group.
IrritableBowelSyndrome.net provides information about IBS to learn, educate, and connect with peers and healthcare professionals. They also have a supportive community to share your own experiences and learn from others. Their featured article contributors are physicians, patient advocates and healthcare experts.
5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome Self Help and Support Group
The IBS Self Help and Support Group is an award-winning site which works to educate those who are living with IBS and to increase awareness about this and other functional gastrointestinal disorders. They offer various information on treatment, diet, and research studies, and have one of the largest online communities for sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
6. Rome Foundation
The Rome Foundation is an independent not-for-profit organization that provides support for activities designed to create scientific data and educational information to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs). Their goal is to promote global recognition of FGIDs, advance the scientific understanding of their pathophysiology, provide resources, and create educational programs and events to help patients manage their disease.
Throughout the month of April, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders will be posting tips to help patients better control IBS, however the information they provide is not intended to replace the guidance of a health care professional. If you have symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it is advised that you talk to your physician. You can also join the conversation on Twitter to help spread awareness for #IBSAwarenessMonth.