Question: I suffer with IBS and feel like it plays a large part to my interest in sex.  I love my husband very much, but when I am going through a flare up, I feel depressed, fatigued, and feel discomfort with my bowels.  But I also want to feel sexual desire and be more active during these times.  What's the deal?  Am I the only one that feels this way?

Thanks so much for writing.  I'm sorry to hear about your ongoing issues with IBS and how it affects your sexual functioning.  You are certainly not alone!  According to a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine entitled "Sexual Dysfunctions in Men and Women with Inflammatory Bowel Disease," Bel et al. showed that during non-active states of the disease, participants did not experience significantly more sexual dysfunction than the control group.  However, during an active phase (or a flare up), significant associations were found between the active disease, fatigue, depressed mood, quality of life, and sexual function for both male and female patients.  Female patients particularly suffered with vaginal pain and problems with lubrication.  

Here are some recommendations:

  • Expect some sexual change when you are experiencing more IBS symptoms and to try not to worry too much about "why is this happening to me and how long will this last".  Rather, it seems that resting and taking care of yourself and possibly taking a small break from intercourse would be helpful for a short time.  

  • Talk to your husband about this and try to get his understanding.

  • Work with your doctor to reduce flare ups

  • Increase sleep and rest to alleviate fatigue

  • Work with a psychiatrist/psychotherapist to reduce any symptoms of depression will also be highly critical in feeling positive and improving sexual functioning while living with IBS. 


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