Women participating in shift work, especially those working rotating shifts, face a significantly increased risk of developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), according to research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
"We know that people participating in shift work often complain of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea," said Sandra Hoogerwerf, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School. "These are the same symptoms of IBS."
IBS is the most common functional bowel disorder and is difficult to identify because it is diagnosed by clinical symptoms rather than tests. IBS symptoms include recurrent episodes of abdominal pain or cramping in connection with altered bowel habits.
"Our findings suggest that nurses participating in shift work, particularly those who participate in rotating shift work, have a higher prevalence of IBS and abdominal pain. This association is independent of sleep quality," Hoogerwerf notes. "We know the colon has its own biological clock and that's what increases the likelihood of having a bowel movement in the first six hours of the day."
She hypothesizes that shift work can cause chronic disruption of that biological rhythm, resulting in the colon constantly being thrown off-kilter and needing to adjust, creating symptoms of diarrhea, boating, constipation and abdominal pain and discomfort."
The researchers acknowledge that sleep disturbances do not completely explain the existence of IBS and further research is needed. "The question now... is if IBS and abdominal pain is an underlying manifestation of a circadian rhythm disorder," Hoogerwerf said.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treated With Hypnotherapy
Anyone else out there with IBS???? - Aphrodite's Discussion Forums
Fecal Incontinence On The Rise
Source: University of Michigan Health System