Myths About IBS

A doctor holding blocks that spell out IBS

This month, we’re focusing our attention on another gastrointestinal disorder that affects an estimated 10-15% of the population: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. While many IBS symptoms are ignored or overlooked, this condition is classified as a medical disorder that deserves attention.  April is designated as IBS Awareness Month. It is a time when organizations and healthcare professionals work to educate and inform the public and promote awareness that can benefit those suffering from IBS. During IBS Awareness month, let’s address some of the top myths about IBS and offer some accurate information about this common disorder.

It’s not a big deal

One of the most common misconceptions about IBS is that it isn’t a medical condition or doesn’t require treatment. While there are differing levels of severity when it comes to IBS, symptoms have the potential to drastically impact quality of life. Whether it’s diarrhea that makes someone unable to leave their home out of fear of not having access to a toilet or chronic constipation that leads to pain that interferes with their daily activities, IBS is a condition that needs to be addressed by a medical professional. Even if you think you can handle the immediate symptoms of IBS on your own, the long-term effects that symptoms have on your quality of life can lead to issues with your mental health

It’s all in your head

In addition to downplaying IBS, another myth about IBS is that it’s caused by mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. People draw this incorrect conclusion because IBS does not show any visual signs of illness and because mental health ailments have the potential to increase symptoms. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes disordered function in the digestive tract, so while it may not be visible, it is certainly not all in your head. 

People with IBS can’t eat certain foods

When it comes to IBS, it’s easy to make blanket statements about diet and nutrition. While certain foods may trigger or intensify symptoms, foods that trigger these reactions depend on the individual. Just because you may read about another person with IBS having a bad reaction to a food or food group does not mean that you will have that same reaction. Instead, it’s important to try different foods and keep track of how each food affects you.

Cutting out dairy will cure IBS

Because IBS and food intolerances, like lactose intolerance, show similar symptoms, many people group these conditions together. While intolerance to dairy or gluten may occur in those with IBS, they are separate conditions. Many people living with IBS do not have any specific food sensitivities or intolerances, so cutting dairy out of their diet would not be effective.

Treatments are one size fits all

If you have IBS, it’s important to work with a specialist who can help you find your best individual treatment plan. While you may hear of a treatment that works well for someone else, the same treatment may prove to be ineffective or even cause unwanted side effects for you. There are many different treatment plans available, so it’s important to take time to see what works for you. Possible treatment options include dietary changes, medications, alternative therapies, and more. 

IBS is the same thing as IBD 

This myth is so common that we have dedicated an entire blog discussing the differences between IBS and IBD (irritable bowel disease). In short, IBD causes physical damage to your bowels through chronic inflammation or ulcers, while IBS is a condition where your digestive tract functions improperly. While the two conditions may share similar symptoms, they are different disorders that require individual diagnoses and treatment.

Consult a Gastroenterologist

A gastroenterologist is best equipped to determine a wide variety of issues including irritable bowel syndrome. If you are having trouble with your digestive health, Birmingham Gastroenterology can help. We have decades of experience treating diseases and disorders in all parts of the digestive system. To make an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options, call us at (205) 271-8000.

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