IMAGE DESCRIPTION: An image of a lady holding her abdomen with a red patch to represent pain. Title reads: April marks Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month. Please take our website survey. The ME Association Logo (bottom right)

Website survey: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, dedicated to shedding light on a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is also a relatively common occurrence with people who have ME/CFS and Long Covid.

In the UK alone, it's estimated that around 10-15% of the population suffers from IBS, making it one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. Women are disproportionately affected by IBS, with studies indicating a higher prevalence compared to men. However, IBS doesn't discriminate and can impact anyone regardless of gender, age, or socioeconomic status.

IBS is characterised by a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, or alternating between the two. These symptoms can vary in severity and frequency, significantly impacting the quality of life for those affected. The unpredictability of symptoms can lead to social isolation and anxiety further exacerbating the condition's burden.

Living with IBS is often described as navigating a constant minefield of triggers and symptoms. Simple tasks like grocery shopping, dining out, or attending social gatherings can become sources of anxiety and discomfort. The need for frequent bathroom breaks and dietary restrictions can disrupt work, school, and personal relationships.


IBS often coexists with other conditions, further complicating diagnosis and management. Among these comorbidities, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Fibromyalgia are frequently observed.

  • It is estimated that between 35 and 70 percent of patients with fibromyalgia also have IBS
  • Studies of IBS among ME/CFS patients have reported a prevalence ranging from 35-92% with a median of 51%

Source: Sperber et al 2010

More information

  • The ME Association has a leaflet – Stomach and Irritable Bowel Symptoms – that is available as a free download.
  • Guts UK is a charity whose vision is a world where digestive disorders are better understood, better treated and everyone who lives with one gets the support they need. The ME Association is pleased to be collaborating with Guts UK to raise awareness of IBS.
  • There is a NICE Guideline on Irritable Bowel Syndrome which provides clinical recommendations that you might like to read.


The ME Association invites you to take a survey if you have IBS or have IBS symptoms

Research Insights

1. Prevalence and Predictors of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A National Inpatient Sample Study (Tarar et al 2023)

This research paper investigates the prevalence and predictors of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in individuals diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The study utilised data from the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) from 2016 to 2019, focusing on hospitalisations of patients with IBS and analysing their comorbidities.

The findings revealed that out of 1,256,325 patients with IBS, 10.73% had fibromyalgia, and 0.42% had CFS. These prevalence rates were significantly higher compared to the general adult population without IBS. The study also identified various predictors associated with an increased likelihood of having fibromyalgia and CFS in patients with IBS. These predictors included increasing age, female gender, white race, obesity, smoking, and hyperlipidemia.

Furthermore, the study conducted subgroup analysis based on the predominant bowel habits of IBS patients, categorizing them into IBS-diarrhea (IBS-D), IBS-constipation (IBS-C), and IBS-mixed types. It found that all subtypes were independently associated with higher odds of fibromyalgia and CFS, with IBS-C patients having higher odds compared to IBS-D patients.

The paper acknowledges certain limitations, including the retrospective nature of the study and the lack of medication and laboratory data in the NIS. However, it provides valuable insights into the prevalence and predictors of fibromyalgia and CFS in the context of IBS, shedding light on potential avenues for further research and clinical management strategies.

2. The Role of Gut Microbiota in the Pathogenesis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Fibromyalgia: A Narrative Review (Wang et al 2024)

This recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine sheds light on potential mechanisms underlying the association between IBS and its comorbidities. The research paper explores the intricate interplay between gut microbiota, immune dysregulation, and neurological symptoms in ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia patients.

The study suggests that alterations in gut microbiota composition and function may contribute to the development and perpetuation of symptoms in individuals with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, with potential implications for IBS management.

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