The irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a motility disorder of the gut. Some of its symptoms affect more than 10% of the normal adult population,1 but most people accept these symptoms as a minor nuisance. Only those with severe, persistent and recurrent symptoms, and those who worry about their symptoms, consult a doctor and become ‘patients’ with a ‘disease’. Patients with IBS, about 30% of whom are women under 40, are often seen in general practice and constitute up to half of the referrals to gastroenterological outpatients. Treatment has much to offer but is often unsatisfactory.
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