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    A Guide to IBS Awareness Month

    In this article, we delve into the intricacies of IBS, exploring its definition, prevalence, and the impact it has on millions of individuals worldwide. From uncovering essential statistics to shedding light on the importance of raising awareness, we aim to equip you with a deeper understanding of this common gastrointestinal disorder, as well as the awareness month dedicated to it.

    How prominent is IBS in the UK?

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) holds a significant presence in the UK, being the most prevalent disorder of the digestive system. It's estimated that up to one-third of the population in the UK encounters symptoms associated with IBS, according to Guts UK. This widespread occurrence underscores the importance of understanding and addressing the challenges posed by this condition, both for individuals affected and for healthcare professionals seeking to provide support and management strategies.

    How many adults in the UK suffer from IBS?

    Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the UK are believed to have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). However, this figure might be even higher as not everyone experiencing symptoms seeks medical advice. It's also worth noting that women are more prone to IBS compared to men, and it typically manifests in the 20s or 30s, although it's less common for symptoms to emerge later in life (Chatu & Coulter, 2023).

    How many children in the UK suffer from IBS?

    Approximately 1 in 6 children of secondary school age disclose symptoms resembling those of IBS. However, diagnosing IBS in young children can be challenging as they may struggle to articulate their symptoms accurately. This difficulty underscores the importance of awareness and vigilance in recognising and addressing potential gastrointestinal issues in children, according to Bupa.

    How do healthy bowels function?

    Your bladder and bowel play pivotal roles in maintaining your overall health and well-being, according to Bladder & Bowel UK. The bowel is a vital component of the digestive system. Its primary function is to digest the food we consume, extract essential nutrients, and then eliminate waste products that the body cannot utilise. A healthy bowel operates smoothly, passing stools without excessive frequency or strain, and without the need for artificial aids like laxatives, as highlighted in the NHS’ guide to maintaining a healthy bowel

    Video: The Science of Gut Health (& Why It Matters)

    In the video below podcaster Ali Abdaal explains gut health in simple terms and why good gut health is so important:

    Is IBS more common in elderly people?

    Contrary to previous beliefs, Irritable Bowel Syndrome does not just affect young people, it can also affect the elderly. Research indicates that the prevalence of IBS among the elderly is comparable to other age demographics. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that approximately 10% to 20% of older adults exhibit symptoms consistent with an IBS diagnosis.

    Is IBS more common in men or women?

    Research findings indicate that Irritable Bowel Syndrome is more prevalent in women than men. Additionally, among the subtypes of IBS, IBS with constipation is notably more common in women compared to men. This variance in occurrence between genders may be influenced by factors such as sex hormones and other gender-related distinctions (Kim & Kim, 2018).

    How has IBS research helped people in the UK?

    IBS research in the UK has made significant strides in improving the understanding and management of this condition, addressing key priorities outlined by organisations like Guts UK. Some of the notable areas where research has benefited people include:

    • Identify causes

    • Outline optimal treatment and management

    • Develop pain, spasms and cramp treatments

    • Understanding the connection between the gut and the brain

    • Understanding hormonal effects on IBS

    • Understanding the mental health effects of IBS

    • Improving bowel control

    • Developing fast, accurate diagnostics

    • Help understanding how diet can help

    • Investigating the use of prebiotics and probiotics 

    What is IBS Awareness Month?

    IBS Awareness Month is a designated awareness month that occurs annually in April. It was designated as an awareness month by the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders in 1997. During IBS Awareness Month, people are encouraged to spread awareness of this condition which is so prevalent as it can sometimes slip under the radar in terms of chronic health conditions.

    When is IBS Awareness Month in 2024?

    IBS Awareness Month is held in April every year. In 2024, IBS Awareness Month is, again, the month of April. This month was chosen by the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders and is recognised by Guts UK.

    Who organises IBS Awareness Month?

    IBS Awareness Month is organised by the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). The IFFGD has designated April as IBS Awareness Month and has done so since 1997. The aim of this month is to increase public awareness of IBS, providing education and support to people affected by the condition. 

    Man holding his stomach due to discomfort from IBS

    What is the theme for IBS Awareness Month?

    The theme for IBS Awareness Month in 2024 is #IBSDilemma. This social campaign aims to highlight the profound challenges and dilemmas faced by individuals living with IBS. The campaign emphasises the need to raise awareness, promote understanding, and offer compassion to those affected by IBS. By shedding light on the daily struggles and uncertainties individuals with IBS encounter, the campaign aims to break the silence, challenge stigma, and create a supportive environment where individuals with IBS feel seen, heard, and supported, according to the IFFGD.

    How can I take part in IBS Awareness Month? 

    To take part in IBS Awareness Month and contribute to raising awareness for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there are several actions you can take that are encouraged by the IFFGD. These include:

    • Download and share their IBS Awareness Month toolkit

    • Share press releases by the IFFGD

    • Use your voice to contribute to raising awareness

    • Use resources provided by IFFGD

    • Promote the month of social media using #IBSDilemma

    Sources

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