Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an often misunderstood and underdiagnosed condition that affects about 15.3 million people in the United States.
No one remedy works for all patients, so there’s a great medical need to develop new therapies for IBS, says Tara Altepeter, M.D., a gastroenterologist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That’s why the FDA is working to bring more treatments to the market.
“There’s a lot of new research about the role of carbohydrates, and specifically a nutrient called polyols, in triggering irritable bowel syndrome in some patients,” Altepeter says. “In addition, researchers are more closely examining the role of dietary modification as a treatment for patients with IBS.”
What Is IBS?
IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine (colon) but doesn’t cause inflammation or permanent damage. Common symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, excessive gas, mucous in the stool, and alterations in bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea).
The symptoms may come and go, and can change in the same patient. Sometimes the pain from IBS can be so severe that it’s disabling and patients can’t do routine things. Doctors don’t know what causes IBS, and there is no known cure.
Studies estimate that as many as 20% of Americans suffer from IBS. Many people may not know they have this gastrointestinal disorder. They might have occasional diarrhea and constipation and think it’s caused by something they ate, or a virus, so they don’t see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. When they do, doctors must first rule out that the symptoms aren’t caused by a disease or another condition.