Why is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) More Common Now?
Why are we seeing more IBS more now than ever before?
Lately it seems IBS is becoming more and more common, people are talking about it more, discussing symptoms more and getting diagnosed more frequently. So why is this the case? Is there something that we are doing that is increasing this prevalence of IBS? Well, I propose two key reasons here and while this is certainly not all inclusive (there are likely many reasons) these are the two I believe based on my profession experience.
More interest, more research, more awareness, more diagnoses!
It is an exciting time in the world of gut health research and we are learning so much more about the microbiome and the gut brain axis. This has really given the limelight to gut health and brought more awareness to the general population about gut health and conditions that involve gut health. With this increased awareness and education it is likely that people who were previously suffering in silence are now reaching out for help, or they are just complaining to their colleagues and friends about it more.
Prior to this attention and research in gut health people may not have known what was wrong with them, may have felt embarrassed to talk about it, didn’t think there was anything you could do about it or didn’t see it worthwhile asking for medical help.
This tends to be the case when there is a rise in research in many diseases, for example when the PSA blood test (to detect prostate cancer in the very early stages) was developed we had a huge rise in diagnosis of prostate cancer. Does that mean that more people had prostate cancer? No it just means we knew about more of them! So with IBS it may not be that there is more, it may be that we just now know about more people with IBS.
More Gut-Brain Axis Dysfunction
Contrary to what I said above I do believe there is one reason that may be contributing to a true increase in the number of people suffering IBS and this is due to the dysfunction of the gut-brain axis.
As mentioned IBS is a condition of the gut brain axis, meaning that in IBS there is miscommunication between the brain and the gut. While we don’t actually know a lot about what this miscommunication is what we do know is that stress, anxiety and depression increase gut symptoms and severity of IBS and that people with anxiety, depression or those with high levels of stress are more likely to have IBS.
Now this is just my observation, I don’t have stats to back this but it seems as a society we are becoming a lot more stressed (I am sure there are stats out there to support me on this). These days were are constantly wired, constantly connected (and not in a good way, maybe disconnected is an even better term here) and we have very little down time, we work long hours, we have debt, we are trying to balance family life, work life, social life and we have emails 24/7 all while social media is showing us just how much we are not keeping up with the Jones’. What effect is that having on our gut brain communication? We actually don’t know the answer to this yet as this constant state of hyperconnectedness (did I just make up a word?) is only relatively new. My thoughts are that a constant state of stress cannot do good things for the gut-brain axis and we certainly do have research to support the effect of stress on the microbiome and in IBS.
When I take this into my practice it makes sense, my clients are often stressed, working long hours, falling asleep scrolling through instagram and spending their weekends meal prepping, exercising (which mind you are very healthy things to do) but this lack of complete down time I believe may be leading to a miscommunication between the brain and our gut and increasing IBS.
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Have a fab week ahead and look after your guts ;)
P.S Don’t forget to join me for a LIVE Q+A on my instagram at 7.30pm AEDT Wednesday 20th Feb!