Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal (digestive) problem
that affects up to 15% of adults (during their lifetimes) in developed countries.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder, meaning that tests do not
reveal a cause in the structure of the bowel such as an obstruction or a tumor.
Irritable bowel syndrome is completely different from Crohn
disease or ulcerative colitis, which are inflammatory
diseases of the intestine. Having IBS does not increase the risk of developing
colon cancer. Gastroenterologists (doctors with specialized
training in treating disorders of the bowel and other digestive organs) may
be consulted to help diagnose and treat IBS. The August 18, 2004, issue of JAMA includes an article about IBS that reviews evidence
that IBS may be related to abnormal fermentation (chemical
breakdown) of food by bacteria inside the bowel.