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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Worse During Periods
      07/14/03 03:25 PM

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome Worse During Periods

By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Medical News

March 14, 2002 -- Women who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome often experience a worsening in symptoms during their periods, suggesting that fluctuations in sex hormones may play a role in the condition, British researchers report.

The findings may help explain why more women than men are afflicted with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an intestinal condition characterized by gas, bloating, cramps, and changes in bowel habits. Some people with IBS experience constipation, some have diarrhea, and some have both.

"Women with IBS appear to respond differently to hormonal cycles than women without the syndrome," says lead author Lesley A. Houghton, PhD, of the University Hospital of South Manchester. "The potential role of sex hormones in [development] of IBS needs to be taken into consideration by those working on new medications for the disease."

In their research, Houghton and colleagues used balloon distention of the rectum -- a common tool for studying IBS -- to measure sensitivity changes among women with the disorder during different phases of their menstrual cycle. They showed, for the first time, that rectal sensitivity in women with IBS increases during their periods, compared with all other phases in the cycle. This was not true of women without IBS.

Periods were associated with a worsening of abdominal pain and bloating in those with IBS, and trips to the bathroom were more frequent. In addition, the women tended to report lower general well-being during their periods. The findings were reported in the latest issue of the journal Gut.

It is estimated that from 15-20% of the population suffers from irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms can range from mildly annoying to disabling. Many people are able to control their symptoms through medications, stress management, and diet, but for some these treatments offer little relief.

Because the cause of IBS is not known, many doctors believe its origins are primarily psychological rather than physiological. Gastroenterologist Brenda Horwitz, MD, of Philadelphia's Temple University Health Sciences Center, says studies like this one add validity to the idea that IBS is truly a disease.

"Many doctors think that it is a psychological disease," she tells WebMD. Clearly it is not, and this is good scientific evidence to show that. These women experienced changes in sensitivity during their menstrual cycles that were different from the normal control population.'

Horwitz agrees that the findings could someday lead to better therapies to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Hopes for better treatments have been dampened over the past several years, as promising new drugs were withdrawn from the market due to unacceptable side effects.

"This is a field that is in desperate need of new treatment strategies," Horwitz says. "The standard treatments we are using have been out there for 15 to 20 years."

2002 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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Entire thread
* Gender / Hormones
07/14/03 01:57 PM
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* Gender Differences In Brain Response To IBS Pain
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* Is hormone replacement therapy associated with an increased risk of irritable bowel syndrome?
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* Sleep disturbance influences gastrointestinal symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome.
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* Gender issues in the management of IBD and IBS
07/15/03 06:11 PM
* Gender differences in gut transit
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* Bowel dysfunction in postmenopausal women.
07/15/03 06:04 PM
* Irritable Bowel Syndrome Worse During Periods
07/14/03 03:25 PM
* Sex-related differences in IBS patients: Central processing of visceral stimuli
07/14/03 02:40 PM

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