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Why Does It Feel Like Everyone Has IBS Right Now? Gut Health Experts Weigh In

Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
By Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor
Gretchen Lidicker earned her master’s degree in physiology with a focus on alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She is the author of “CBD Oil Everyday Secrets” and “Magnesium Everyday Secrets.”
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Image by Karolina Grabowska / Pexels
April 24, 2023
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It says a lot that the "Hot girls with IBS" TikTok trend, which aims to spread awareness about this digestive health issue, has garnered more than 11.8 million views on the platform. It seems like everyone is suddenly talking about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And more than that, it feels like everyone has IBS these days.

But why? What's to blame for the startling rise in the condition? We spoke to two top gut health experts to get to the bottom of it. 

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It's not in your head: IBS is on the rise

According to Marvin Singh, M.D., an integrative gastroenterologist, the idea that everyone has IBS these days isn't just in your head. "IBS-type symptoms such as gas, bloating, and bowel issues like constipation and diarrhea are on the rise," he said. 

In fact, recent statistics estimate that about 5 to 10% of the world's population has IBS, and that number seems to be rising steadily. For example, one study showed1 that the prevalence of IBS in students was 14.6% in 2004 and 19% just five years later in 2009. IBS is more common in women (women are about 2.5 times more likely2 to seek treatment for IBS than men) and adults under 50. 

There are three main types of IBS: 

  • IBS-C. The "C" stands for constipation, which means your stool is hard and lumpy and you struggle to maintain regular bowel movements.
  • IBS-D. The "D" stands for diarrhea, which means your poop is loose and watery and often accompanied by stomach pain and discomfort.
  • IBS-M. "M" is for "mixed bowel habits," and this means you tend to alternate between diarrhea and constipation with no clear reason why.
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You may be at a higher risk of IBS if you have a family history of the condition, a food intolerance, a severe digestive tract infection, or a history of physical or emotional trauma. 

Why is it so common right now?

According to Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., an integrative medicine physician and gut health expert, "Gut issues like IBS are on the rise for many reasons, including our diet, stress, and the toxins we are exposed to in our environment."

Singh agrees, noting, "The biggest triggers are stress and diet." That said, he adds, "There are several other triggers like lack of exercise, not sleeping well, and exposure to toxins or foods that you have sensitivities to."  

If you're trying to figure out if your gut issues are IBS, Singh recommends taking a look at the Rome IV diagnostic criteria, which will help you pinpoint whether what you have qualifies as IBS, as well as obtain a diagnosis from a specialist. "It's important to get an evaluation with a gastroenterologist if you have any symptoms because some things can sound like IBS and be more concerning like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn's disease, to name a few."  

If you do have IBS, the good news is that the top triggers are related to your lifestyle, so you can definitely make changes to improve IBS symptoms. According to Singh and Gandhi, the top lifestyle tips are: 

Take a probiotic: "My favorite go-to supplement for IBS—other than modifying your diet accordingly—is to take a daily probiotic," says Gandhi. "This is a good starting point, and also identifying how to decrease inflammation and ensure you're having regular, healthy bowel movements," she says. Try one of these nine probiotic supplements that are approved by a nutrition Ph.D. to repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria.

Manage stress: Our increasingly stressful lifestyles are partially to blame for our increasingly sensitive stomachs. "The mind-gut connection is quite strong and can truly play a large role in GI symptoms," says Singh. Studies show that emotional stress can raise levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) and lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which cause inflammation in the gut and increased intestinal permeability. Try these 10 natural remedies for dealing with stress

Follow an anti-inflammatory diet: Toxins and diet can also overlap, according to Gandhi, who recommends reducing your intake of foods treated with pesticides, as well as inflammatory refined sugars and seed oils, in order to support your gut microbiome. Here's a primer on how to start following an anti-inflammatory diet.

Prioritize sleep: Gandhi adds that it's also important to prioritize good sleep in order to keep your hormones and food cravings in check. "If you're sleeping're less likely to overindulge and will naturally avoid sugary unhealthy foods," she says.

Identify food sensitivities: "It's important to identify any foods that could be disrupting your microbiome either through trial/error elimination or food sensitivity testing," says Gandhi. Some of the most common sensitivities are dairy, gluten, fructose, and sulfites.  

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The takeaway

If it seems to you like everyone has IBS these days—it's not just in your head. IBS levels are on the rise due to lifestyle factors. Fortunately, if you have the condition, certain lifestyle modifications can help you manage your symptoms. Let's hear it for the "Hot girls with IBS in check."

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Gretchen Lidicker, M.S. author page.
Gretchen Lidicker, M.S.
mbg Health Contributor

Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.