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How Long Does IBS Last? 7 Factors Affecting IBS Flare Up Duration

By Adam Trainor September 17, 2019

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a very unpleasant gastrointestinal disorder: while usually not even remotely life-threatening, it still can turn a patient's life into a never-ending cycle of frustration and pain.

Bloating, irregular bowels, bouts of stomach cramps and pain in the abdomen, constipation, diarrhea, and mucus in the stools are only some of the most common symptoms of IBS.

frustration

Image: iwate-kokyo.info

On top of that, everyone can experience different symptoms or flare-ups.

And the worst thing about IBS?

It can be VERY unpredictable.

It is possible to not experience any symptoms for a long time, and then suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere have a flare-up. Then after some time, the symptoms of a flare-up can go away while in other cases, persistent and severe symptoms can appear.

Does IBS ever go away? Not impossible... But currently there is no cure for IBS, and the condition can be lifelong. 

All of which makes IBS a very frustrating (let alone painful) condition. 

How Long Do IBS Attacks Last?

IBS flare-up duration is most typically from 2 to 4 days. After that, the symptoms can reduce or disappear completely.

However:

Some factors can make symptoms worse or longer-lasting.

These factors aggravate the disease, cause or worsen the flare-ups, and make the disease difficult to deal with.

Let's take a quick look at the most common of those factors. 

7 Different Factors that Aggravate IBS

Some researchers find that psychological factors seem to trigger the flare-ups and regulate the severity of the IBS, response to medical treatment, and persistence of the syndrome.

In fact, there are 23 unique psychological factors that are might be associated with IBS symptoms. The most common factors are:

  ○  Coping

  ○  Personality

  ○  Stress

Let's take a quick look at each one of these.

Coping skills

30% to 90% of people with IBS deal with psychological disorders. Exactly how long do IBS flare-ups last can sometimes depend on psychological distress and the patient's ability to cope with stress and pain. Being under a high amount of psychological distress and frustration can make IBS symptoms worse or more difficult to manage.

Personality

Certain temperaments and personalities make us more vulnerable to stress, and this type of vulnerability can unfortunately aggravate IBS. Consistent stress can make it more difficult to deal with the syndrome (but more on that below...)

Day-to-day stress

The symptoms of IBS can become worse and wane with stress. Daily stress sometimes plays a huge role in this health problem.

Based on the same research (looking at animal models) stress puts a strain on the functions between the gut and the brain, which possibly aggravates the IBS.

Stress in IBS

Physical Factors

Aside from stress, other factors affect how long does IBS last, or cause sudden flare-ups. They are:

  ○  Malabsorption of sugars

  ○  Enteric inflammatory cells

  ○  Menstrual cycle

  ○  Inflammation

Of course, these are not all the factors. They are only some of the most common ones.

Malabsorption of sugars (sorbitol, fructose, and lactose), can make the IBS worse. Rather than being the root of the problem, they aggravate the IBS. People with fast transit times, medium, or short-chain fatty acids have a problem with diarrhea. The EGC also play a major role. They can affect IBS and often cause other problems like acute gastroenteritis. Inflammation can affect the intestines, which will make IBS more painful. Finally, menstrual cycles affect gut motility and sensation.

When Are Tests Necessary?

When there are warning signs and symptoms of a more severe IBS condition, such as: 

  ○  Swelling in the rectum or abdomen

  ○  Rectal bleeding

  ○  Noticeable weight loss (without dieting or exercising)

  ○  Anemia (reduced concentration of hemoglobin or red blood cells)

... further testing may be necessary.

Who Is More Prone to IBS?

IBS is thought to affect up to 1 in 5 people at some point in their life. It can affect people of all ages, but it often occurs in those between 20 to 30 years of age. Statistically, it affects more women than men. 

At the moment, more studies are being conducted on the connection between IBS and environmental factors, specifically, whether sudden environmental changes make us more vulnerable to this condition. 

In conclusion...

IBS is an unpredictable and often painful disorder that can be challenging to deal with.

Many factors contribute to IBS. Some are psychological, and others are physical. They are often interconnected, and the duration of the IBS flare-ups often depends on many or all of these factors.

As a result, patients with IBS might suffer from anxiety or depression at some point. Healthcare specialists sometimes recommend cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants for treating anxiety and depression in IBS patients. 

With adequate psychological and medical treatment, there is a good chance for everything to get back on track.

If you are suffering from this syndrome, please don't give up; seek treatment and live your life to the fullest, even when dealing with IBS!

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330822/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/37063.php

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673027/

https://www.nursingtimes.net/clinical-archive/gastroenterology/irritable-bowel-syndrome/1994694.article

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016


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