Monday, September 16, 2013


Irritable Bowel Syndrome more common than many think

In my role as a community health education nurse, I have arranged for educational programs on a wide variety of topics. Several weeks ago, a gastroenterologist — or bowel specialist — approached me and asked me to help him arrange a program on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease.  I said I was doubtful that many people would come to a program on that topic.  Well, was I wrong!  We filled the room to capacity, an overwhelming success.  I had no idea so many people were interested in or suffered from IBS.

IBS is a disorder that leads to abdominal pain and cramping, changes in bowel movements, and other symptoms. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, about one in six people in the United States has symptoms of IBS.  It is the most common intestinal problem that causes patients to be referred to a gastroenterologist.  Symptoms range from mild to severe and include abdominal pain, gas and bloating.  It is unclear why patients develop IBS and it is twice as common in women than in men.   

The goal of treatment is to relieve the symptoms. Dietary changes can be helpful. However, no specific diet can be recommended for IBS because the condition differs from  person to person.  Changes that may help alleviate symptoms include avoiding large meals and foods and drinks that stimulate the intestines, such as, caffeine, tea or colas.

This is the most important take-away message: if you notice a consistent change in bowel habits, consult your primary care physician.

In light of the demand for information on the subject, we will be repeating the presentation of “Calm Your Colon: IBS, Crohn’s and Colitis” with Dr. Jefrey Salek and Dr. Shirani Sood, gastroenterologists at Norwich GI Associates. 

Learn more about this topic by attending on Thursday, Dec. 5, from 6-7:30 p.m. at Backus Hospital.  Call 860-889-8331, ext. 6381 to register.  Call now to reserve your space at this program — it’s filling up fast!  

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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