IBS and Menstruation.





Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Professional Data: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)


Also known as "IBS," irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders seen in physicians' offices. IBS is not a life-threatening condition. There is no overt disease or structural defect, in fact, the intestinal tract appears normal for the most part in people with IBS, making the diagnosis harder to pin down. Typical symptoms include distension of the abdomen, pain relieved by bowel movements, constipation alternating with diarrhea, mucous in the stools, and a feeling of incomplete bowel movements.1 These problems may be constant or they may come and go. People are generally not diagnosed as having IBS before these complaints have persisted for at least three months.

he primary symptoms associated with IBS include abdominal distension, abdominal pain relieved by bowel movements, increased frequency of bowel movements, change in consistency of stools, mucous in stools, and the sensation of incomplete bowel movements.

A recent investigation in the journal Gut, looked at the effects of the menstrual cycle on the symptoms of IBS. Previous studies have shown that the menstrual cycle has no effect on rectal sensitivity in healthy women, but women diagnosed with IBS often complain of exacerbation of symptoms during menses. Diagnosed by the Rome I criteria, 29 women with IBS were recruited for this study. Rectal response was assessed during the 28-day menstrual cycle. These women kept a symptom journal to keep track of bloating, stomach pain, as well as bowel movements. Also, the depression and anxiety levels were recorded. During the 28-day menstrual cycle, the most pain and discomfort was seen in the menses phase. In this phase, bowel movements became more recurrent and the women had a lower feeling of well-being. These provided results illustrated that symptoms of IBS are more severe during menstruation. It also showed that in contrast to healthy women, rectal sensitivity changes occur in women with IBS during menses.2


1. Borum ML. Irritable bowel syndrome. Prim Care. Sep 2001;28(3):523-38,vi.
2. Houghton L, et al. The menstrual cycle affects rectal sensitivity in patients with irritable bowel syndrome but not healthy volunteers. Gut. Mar 2002; 50:471-474.