Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic constipation (CC) are two of the most common functional disorders of the gut. CC and IBS are estimated to affect up to 20% and 27% of the North American population respectively. Although not life-threatening, CC and IBS can profoundly and negatively affect quality of life and are associated with a significant economic burden related to direct and indirect annual health-care costs. Possible etiologies for IBS and CC include alterations in visceral sensation and gastrointestinal motility. IBS may be caused by disturbances in brain-gut interactions affecting gastrointestinal motility and visceral sensitivity. Research efforts in CC have begun to identify abnormalities in myenteric neurons, alterations in neurotransmitters and their receptors, and incoordination of the muscles of the pelvic floor or anorectum. Both disorders may be influenced by genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and stress. In this article, the safety and efficacy of traditional and emerging therapies for CC and IBS are examined. In addition, their pathophysiology and symptoms are briefly reviewed.
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