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Turning Attention To Returning Vets During IBS Awareness Month

MILWAUKEE, April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Many veterans returning from service in Gulf War regions are finding themselves faced with gastrointestinal problems. During April, IBS Awareness Month, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders ( IFFGD) highlights recent developments to improve treatment of chronic digestive issues for these servicemen and women.

Veterans and active military personnel disproportionately represent those suffering from IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) due to their exposure to increased risk factors. Soldiers who served in Southwest Asia during the Persian Gulf War and now suffer with FGIDs may be eligible to receive disability benefits under a presumption of service ruling by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"The affects of IBS and other digestive disorders can be debilitating and disruptive to a person's everyday life. It's important that veterans are aware of symptoms of IBS and the advancements in this arena so that they can be best cared for after returning home from service," said Nancy Norton, president and founder of IFFGD, a nonprofit education and research organization dedicated to informing and supporting those affected by IBS and other digestive disorders. 

IBS has no cure and its symptoms, including abdominal pain with diarrhea and/or constipation, are chronic and unpredictable. The disorder has a significant impact on daily living and healthcare utilization for those afflicted, causing increased doctor visits and procedures.

"IBS is a long-term condition with symptoms that can change over time in a person. There isn't an easy remedy for people with IBS, but working in partnership with a knowledgeable care provider can often go a long way toward helping to manage the symptoms," Norton said. 

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) agrees that coordinated treatment and communication are important for managing chronic multi-symptom illnesses like IBS, specifically with regard to veterans. Earlier this year the group issued Gulf War and Health Volume 9, a report that concluded there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach that will help veterans experiencing these illnesses. 

"Both chronic multi-symptom illnesses and IBS can be seen as disrupted brain-body (gut) disorders where the brain's ability to regulate symptoms is impaired," said Douglas A. Drossman MD, a member of the IOM committee responsible for evaluating FGIDs in the report, as well as volumes 6 and 8, which specifically addressed IBS in Gulf War veterans. "Particularly for IBS, the disorder fits the concept of 'post-infectious,' where a combination of gastrointestinal infection and war trauma contribute to generating symptoms of the disease."

IFFGD designated April as IBS Awareness Month in 1997. The organization offers trustworthy information and support to those looking for assistance regarding FGIDS like IBS. For many years IFFGD has been working with lawmakers and government officials to advance research and care for veterans and active military personnel affected with FGIDs. 

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