As many as one in five adults in this country, most of them women, suffers from a condition that is not just painful but socially debilitating.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the kind of non-specific, non-fatal condition that busy GPs can easily dismiss but, with symptoms ranging from stomach cramping to diarrhoea or constipation, bloating, excessive wind and incontinence if there is no lavatory nearby, it can be a colossal problem.
"It is excruciatingly embarrassing," says Lyn Brooks, a lawyer in her thirties who has had IBS for seven years. "At a dinner party recently I was trying so desperately hard to hold in my wind that I was soon doubled up on the floor. People thought I was drunk."
Some sufferers, not surprisingly, become afraid to leave home, losing careers, friends or even lovers. The internet is alive with IBS support groups where people can unburden themselves anonymously. One woman recounts crouching in a school playing field at night, terrified she would be caught on CCTV; another recalls how she fainted from stomach cramps, bringing the New York traffic to a halt.
If you have these symptoms, it is important to get a diagnosis from your GP as they may signal other illnesses such as Crohn's disease. Although there is no magic cure for IBS, and its causes are not fully understood, a GP may be able to prescribe medications such as anti-spasmodics. Most experts agree, however, that self-help is the best approach.
Source - Telegraph