http://www.allhealth.com/conditions/digest...4,127_4,00.html I copied the INTRO here but check out the links on this page. Do you wish your intestines would function normally and stop being so moody and cranky? You're not alone -- yet you may be misunderstood. One in five Americans, mostly women, suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder characterized by chronic intestinal discomfort and irregular bowel movements that sometimes interfere with normal daily life. Yet a study released in 1999 showed that many doctors don't appreciate IBS as a real physical illness, leaving millions of Americans in want of sympathy -- and some real help. IBS is the most common disorder diagnosed by gastroenterologists, and is the seventh leading diagnosis in the U.S. among all physicians, according to the study results. The study, designed and conducted by Schulman, Ronca and Bucuvalas, Inc. (SRBI), surveyed 1,014 women with IBS, 1,010 women without IBS, and 700 healthcare providers. Yet despite the frequency of IBS, women visit an average of three doctors before being properly diagnosed, possibly because 80 percent of doctors don't actually use the published diagnostic criteria for IBS. The study also revealed that about 33 percent of primary care doctors still believe that IBS is primarily psychologically based -- and because of that, they may not take your symptoms seriously enough. Here are more gut-wrenching stats: 75 percent of IBS sufferers are female More than 50 percent of the women said their symptoms limit their activity 62 percent of the women said an upsetting evening worsened IBS symptoms 40 percent of women describe their pain as "intolerable," yet most doctors rate their patients' pain as not severe 30 percent of the women said they'd been hospitalized for their symptoms at least for one night, and sometimes longer IBS sufferers have an average of 13.4 sick days a year, compared to 4.9 days for non-IBS sufferers About 46 percent of IBS patients have mostly diarrhea, 26 percent have mostly constipation, and 28 percent have an alternating mix of the two Only 30 percent of women who have never experienced IBS had even heard of it 87 percent of doctors said they agreed that physicians needed to be better educated about IBS The Ins and Outs of IBS Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional bowel disorder, which means that although your intestines are in an uproar, they're actually otherwise healthy and free of growths. IBS is thought to result from abnormal muscle contractions, and indeed people with IBS seem to be more sensitive to things that stimulate digestive tract muscle movement, such as stress and caffeine. But don't panic about long-term consequences: You can have symptoms of IBS for a long time, but aside from the discomfort, it won't lead to cancer or other bowel diseases, and it won't shorten your life expectancy. So do you have IBS? You may be diagnosed with IBS if you have some of the below symptoms AND your doctor has ruled out other disorders such as Crohn's disease or diverticulitis. Intestinal cramping after meals, relieved only after a bowel movement Urgency -- a sudden feeling of needing to go to the bathroom Chronic constipation or diarrhea, or a combination of both Bloating Mucus-laden stools Feeling not quite empty after a bowel movement So what can you do if you are one of the afflicted? There are a number of natural methods for promoting healthier intestinal activity. Up your fiber intake. Fiber supplements such as Metamucil, Fiberall, or Citrucel help regulate bowel movements. Make sure you use water-soluble fiber, such as oat bran, pectin, or psyllium. Water-insoluble fiber, such as wheat bran, can cause more gas and make matters worse. Learn your food intolerances. Dairy intolerance or various food allergies could be sending your digestive system into mutiny -- try an elimination diet to find out what foods you can't tolerate. Cut out refined sugar. Processed sugar can cause overgrowth of intestinal bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Don't eat sorbitol. Sorbitol, found in many sugarless gums, candies, and chocolates, can give you diarrhea. Tailor your diet to your symptoms. If you're suffering mostly from diarrhea, eat more starchy food such as bread, potatoes, and pasta. Try to avoid beans, broccoli, cabbage, apples, spicy foods, acidic foods (such as citrus fruit), fatty foods (such as bacon, sausage, butter, oil, and anything fried), and dairy products. Also avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. If you're suffering mostly from constipation, try adding more fibrous foods to your diet, such as apples, pears, grapes, spinach, whole grains, and beans. Also, drink plenty of water. Regulate your eating patterns. Try eating small meals throughout the day -- large meals can aggravate your symptoms. Eat at the same time each day, and about the same amount of food at each meal. Eat slowly, and try to relax and make mealtime a pleasant event. Reduce your stress. Stress can kick your intestines into high gear, making them work overtime and causing discomfort. Try regular exercise, meditation, counseling, or even hypnosis to level out your stress. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is known to worsen IBS symptoms. Try some herbs. Peppermint oil, goldenseal, slippery elm, and marshmallow can soothe your gut's woes. Put a few drops of one of these natural extracts in a glass of water. Try some more herbs. Chinese herbal formulas such as tong xie yao fang, dang shen, si jun zi tang, wu wei zi, and yin chen are found to have various helpful affects on intestinal activity. Since each has a different effect, talk to a Chinese herb expert about your symptoms so they can recommend what's the most appropriate. Don't overuse laxatives. Unless your doctor recommends them, don't regularly self-treat with laxatives. In some cases, they may aggravate the problem over time. Should You See a Doctor? If intestinal chaos is upsetting your life -- affecting work, social events, travel, or relationships with friends and family -- talk to your doctor. There's no clinical test for IBS, so he or she will ask about your symptoms and begin to rule out other disorders, such as tumors, a parasite, endometriosis, or malabsorption syndrome. To rule these out, your doctor may ask for a stool sample, a biopsy, or have you undergo a flexible sigmoidoscopy (an exploratory tube inserted into your rectum). The good news is, pharmaceutical companies are working on new drugs for IBS, such as alosetron for chronic diarrhea; tegaserod for chronic constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating; and prucalopride for chronic constipation. Ask your doctor about these and other drugs that may help you function normally again.