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3 Common Conditions Women Don't Talk About: Incontinence, Lack of Desire and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome continued...

As the name implies, irritable bowel syndrome is no fun. The condition is marked by diarrhea, constipation, or both at different times, as well as abdominal cramps, pain, and bloating.

Yet few patients discuss irritable bowel syndrome symptoms with their doctor, at least initially, says Peter Galier, MD, associate professor of medicine at the UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and former chief of staff at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center  "Bowels are not the happiest subject to talk about," he says.

Up to 70% of those who have IBS don't get medical care, according to the NIH.

Experts have not yet found a specific cause for IBS, although some believe those who suffer have a colon (large bowel) that is very sensitive to certain foods and to high stress levels.

Most likely to be affected are people with hard-driving personalities and those under extreme stress. "All the symptoms tend to be aggravated by stress," Galier says.

Once irritable bowel syndrome symptoms really interfere with daily activities, women are more likely to broach the subject with their doctor, Galier says. Some people seek help because they worry that IBS symptoms are an indication of, or could lead to, colon cancer -- although that is not the case.

Stress reduction is a crucial part of treatment, according to Galier. He sometimes recommends biofeedback to help patients learn stress reduction.

Medicines that relax intestinal muscles can help relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Medicines approved just for IBS symptoms are available, but people taking them need to be closely monitored to watch for side effects. 

Dietary changes can also help. Adding more fiber, for example, may bring relief if constipation is your primary IBS symptom. Eating smaller meals can also relieve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, as can avoiding caffeinated drinks.

Galier says to tackle the psychological aspects of IBS first, by focusing on stress reduction. Next, improve your diet, and move to medications only if you need to. "If you exercise, watch your diet, and minimize your stress, you could often be OK without the drugs," he says. But, he adds, "Some do all that and still need medicine."

Increasing Female Libido

About 35-45% of women in the U.S. have a problem with lagging sexual desire at some point in their lives, says Beverly Whipple, PhD, RN, professor emerita at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Whipple is known for her sex research and co-discovery of the “G spot,” an area in the genitals that, some believe, when stimulated, can produce excitement and orgasm.

With age, lagging sexual desire is more likely, says Whipple, who prefers the term lack of desire to lack of libido. Suddenly, or over time, women just don't have the interest in sex that they used to.

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