IBS most often known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome is of particular interest to me for several reasons. It is the quintessential mind/body condition. And it appears to be more common than ever.
Is IBS on the rise or do we just have a greater awareness of its frequency? I suspect both are at play.
Are stress levels any more now than in the past? That is always a difficult assessment. We live in the present. It is difficult to recall our emotional state in the past. But I do believe that the Internet, the 24hr news cycle, BlackBerries, I phones etc do contribute to our stress levels and, therefore,symptomatic IBS. Therefore, Internet Bowel Syndrome.
The entire world, its endless suffering and pain is continuously being fed to us. In decades and centuries past we would be aware of our personal adversities and perhaps once or twice a day read a newspaper or hear about the suffering of others from TV or radio. But today it is unremitting.
Furthermore the Internet offers the worried warriors among us an unlimited amount of information about our bowels and their disease states. The more information, the more there is to ponder and stress over.
I must distinguish between information and knowledge since not all information is reliable or even accurate.
I suspect even the most intelligent and well-read layman will have difficulty distinguishing between "good" and "bad" information.
With this in mind it becomes even more important that the treating physician become aware of what is on the world wide web and be able to address patient concerns.
The internet offers two elements that can exacerbate IBS symptoms–increased stress in general and increased confusion over volumes of self-proclaimed information/wisdom.
Hopefully we can learn to take a break from the tsunami of information for a while and feel comfortable discussing our concerns with our physician. In truth, treating IBS is as much an art as a science. There are choices in treatment modalities and dialogue is necessary to come up with an approach that satisfies all parties.
IBS is not going away any time soon and neither is the internet. Everyone who either suffers from or treats the condition should be able to explore and evaluate the options that do exist.