Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Women's Studies and Gender Studies


Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a "medically unexplained illness," are present in up to 20% of the United States population. Individuals experiencing symptoms of IBS often report that physicians dismiss their experiential and embodied knowledge, leading to a sense of isolation and frustration. Many of these individuals attempt to diminish isolation and also exchange their knowledge in a community setting. In order to enable a more complete understanding of IBS, a survey about community participation was sent to members of a large online support group for IBS located on Facebook, with 81 completed surveys received. Further, an open-ended questionnaire was conducted with a local meet-up group for IBS, with three individuals responding.

Community participants seek both informational and emotional support. Both similarities and differences between members re-embody and validate the participant's unique IBS experience, thus increasing well-being. Experiential knowledge was in some cases trusted more than other types. Both men and women seek informational and emotional support, but do so at different points in community participation. Differences between the global and local communities include the local community's ability to provide more specific information and contribute to a more embodied experience. While the focus of this study includes the voices of individuals experiencing IBS symptoms, it also demonstrates the need to bring other perspectives into the conversation, particularly those of men and also the experiential knowledge of physicians.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.