1. The myth: You don’t need to take IBS seriously – it’s not an important condition

The truth: Although IBS is a fairly common condition, it's often misunderstood. According to Dr William Chey, a gastroenterologist at the University of Michigan Health System, “Many physicians believe that IBS is not an important condition because it does not affect a person's lifespan." However, IBS can have a significantly negative impact on someone's quality of life, which is why Dr Chey says IBS should be taken seriously.  

For example, IBS-D has negatively affected this 61-year-old man's life. He* says, “I have had to deal with IBS-D for about 15 years. My first episode was at a football game and I didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Very embarrassing and traumatic. I thought, ‘What just happened?’ Since then I have had other episodes while travelling that have either been disasters or close calls.” 

Kirstin Kadé, from Taste and See blog, an MSc Nutrition student and IBS sufferer, wrote in an article for HBC Magazine, “The pain and discomfort caused by IBS is highly variable between people and even within the same person on different days and times. Some people find it to be slightly irritating, whilst others can find IBS symptoms to be rather debilitating. This can make symptom management and life in general pretty difficult.”

She adds that IBS “can significantly reduce health-related quality of life, and has an impact on work, social activities, and the ability to live life without fear of having to find the nearest toilet.” 

2. The myth: IBS is all in your head

The truth: IBS is a function disorder, which means a person usually displays no visual signs of an illness. According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, although IBS does not display any obvious symptoms it is still a medical disorder. They add that although stress, anxiety and depression may increase symptoms, these are not responsible for causing IBS. 

For this 50-year-old woman, symptoms (she frequently suffers from constipation) are evident and embarrassing. "I don't feel comfortable having to have a bowel movement in public restrooms or at friends’ homes because of the noise from gas and the smell," she* said

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