UPDATE 06/20/12: The Los Angeles Times corrected its headline as of June 15.
On June 8, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled “Irritable Bowel, Ulcerative Colitis Linked to Intestinal Fungi” that is now making its way around various IBS forums. Ulcerative colitis is one form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The author incorrectly refers to “irritable bowel disease,” and the symptoms and prevalence described in his article are consistent with inflammatory bowel disease, not IBS. IBS Impact is not able to comment at this time as to whether the reported claims about intestinal fungi are scientifically credible in regard to inflammatory bowel disease. However, this theory has no known connection to irritable bowel syndrome. This blog previously discussed the differences between IBS and IBD in the August 31, 2011 post.
While this blatant, basic confusion between IBS and IBD is very common in the media and public perception, it is especially disappointing and unacceptable in a major U.S. national newspaper such as the Los Angeles Times. Several medical centers in the Los Angeles area are actively engaged in IBS research, about which the Times has accurately reported in the past. The UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress, in particular, is renowned for its expertise in various complex chronic pain conditions known to have a neurological basis, as IBS does. Many of the Center’s interdisciplinary programs and subunits provide clinical care to adults and children with IBS and/or conduct cutting edge research directly relevant to IBS.
IBS is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder and one of the most common chronic health conditions of any type worldwide, affecting anywhere from 30-60 million Americans alone, depending on the source. It is not an obscure medical condition and the IBS community and the general public deserve accurate reporting. IBS Impact asks that the Los Angeles Times correct its error, and hopes that the newspaper and its colleagues at other media outlets will do more due diligence in regard to IBS in the future.
We also encourage people with IBS and our supporters to regard sources of information carefully and critically, educate themselves about the evidence-based science of IBS as it is currently understood, and to correct others when errors or misrepresentations occur. For more on self-advocacy with the media, see the November 6, 2011 post. For more reputable information and resources on IBS see the IBS Impact main website.