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Irritable bowel syndrome affects between 25 and 45 million Americans. That’s around 10-15% of population. About 2 in 3 people with IBS are female.

What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive disorder that affects millions of Americans. Symptoms include bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and a feeling of incomplete bowel movement. The symptoms might fluctuate with time, but they are frequently lifelong. IBS can be managed effectively with the right approach and treatment plan.


Irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease

IBS and IBD are both gastrointestinal disorders that cause similar symptoms. But they differ in the underlying causes and treatment options.

IBS is made up of a group of symptoms whereas IBD is an autoimmune disease caused by persistent inflammation and swelling of the intestines. IBS does not develop into IBD or cause permanent damage to your intestines such as bleeding or cancer.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, is a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the digestive system. IBD usually manifests in one of three different ways:

  1. Crohn’s disease
  2. Ulcerative colitis
  3. Indeterminate (containing features of both diseases)

Read more

What causes IBS?

Although the exact cause for IBS is not fully understood, it is believed to be an interplay of multiple factors:

  1. Dysmobility

    Dysmobility refers to a condition in which there are abnormal muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract

    • Stronger and longer contractions may cause gas, bloading, and diarrhea
    • Weak contractions may hinder the passage of food and result in dry, firm stools.
  2. Brain-gut dysfunction

    Failure to communicate between the nerves in your brain and gut

    • If brain and gut signals are not synchronized, your body may overreacto to normal changes in the digestion process and cause pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
  3. Hypersensitive GIT nerves

    The nerves that control the muscles in the digestive tract can become hypersensitive in people with IBS and cause abdominal discomfort and bloating.

  4. Childhood trauma

    IBS symptoms are more common in those who have experienced stressful situations, particularly in their early years. Research suggests childhood traumatic experiences are associated with an increased risk of developing adult IBS symptoms.

  5. Gut microbial changes

    Changes in bacteria, fungi, and viruses are a few examples. These organisms often live in your intestines and are important for maintaining health.

    According to research, IBS patients' microorganisms may be different from those of healthy individuals.

  6. Severe infection

    After a severe case of diarrhea brought on by bacteria or a virus, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may appear, also referred to as gastroenteritis.

    There may be a connection between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and an overabundance of bacteria in the intestines or bacterial overgrowth.

IBS triggers

You may have discovered some situations make your IBS symptoms worse. Tracking and avoiding triggers is frequently essential to controlling IBS.


It is unclear how dietary intolerance or allergies relate to IBS. Rarely can an actual food allergy induce irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, countless people report worsening symptoms when they consume particular foods or drinks.

Wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk, and fizzy beverages are a few of them.


During times of high stress, the majority of individuals with IBS notice severe or more frequent symptoms. Although stress does not cause IBS it just makes them worse.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be your gut's reaction to stress in life, according to some studies.

Signs and symptoms of IBS

IBS symptoms vary from person to person and might be more severe in some people than others. Sometimes after consuming particular meals or during stressful periods, symptoms might worsen.

  • Cramping and pain in your abdomen, which can be alleviated by a bowel movement
  • Changes in bowel movement appearance
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Flatulence, otherwise known as gas
  • Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or occasionally both stomach bloating and swelling
  • Feeling as though a bowel movement is incomplete
  • Mucus in your stool (poop) that appears whitish

Less common symptoms
  • Decreased energy
  • Heartburn
Serious symptoms

If you’re experiencing any of the serious symptoms, or if your bowel habits vary frequently, it's important to talk with your healthcare provider. These could point to a more severe problem, including colon cancer.

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anemia or iron deficiency
  • Experiencing diarrhea at night
  • Vomiting
  • Not eased by bowel movements or gastric emptying

IBS symptoms don't always last a long time. They can stop but then return. Some individuals do, however, have persistent symptoms.

IBS in women may cause symptoms to worsen during their menstrual cycle.

Severe symptoms are only present in a few people. By regulating their food, lifestyle, and stress, particular they can be able to control their symptoms. The good news is that your symptoms may typically get better with time with diet and lifestyle changes. Also there are medication options to manage more severe symptoms.

Can IBS be prevented?

Unfortunately BIS cannot be prevented since the its root causes are unknown.

Once it's identified, you may be able to lessen the frequency and intensity of your symptoms by altering your diet and/or stress levels.

Risk factors

  • Food poisoning
  • Sex: 2 in 3 IBS suffers are women. The use of estrogen therapy before or after menopause may increase your likelihood of developing the condition.
  • Age: IBS is more common in adults under the age of 50.
  • Antibiotic exposure
  • Family history
  • Anxiety, depression, and/or other mental health problems

About 2 in 3 people with IBS are undiagnosed and do not seek medical help for their symptoms.


Your doctor may examine you, analyze your symptoms, review medical and family history to determine whether you have IBS. Doctors will also examine your symptoms for a specific pattern.

Your doctor may prescribe tests to rule out other health issues or even a stool test to detect any infection. Stool tests can also determine whether your gut has problems absorbing nutrients.

Lab tests

  • Lactose intolerance test

    You require an enzyme called lactase to digest the sugar in dairy products. If your body can't produce lactase, you may experience stomach discomfort, gas, and diarrhea. Your doctor could recommend you avoid dairy from your diet for a few weeks.

  • Stool test

    It's possible to check your feces for bacteria, parasites, or bile acid (a digestive fluid that's produced by your liver).

Diagnostic procedures

  • Upper endoscopy

    Upper endoscopy is a procedure used to visually examine your upper digestive system. The test is ordered if celiac disease is suspected.

  • Colonoscopy

    A procedure conducted by your doctor to examine your colon.

  • CT scan

    If you have abdominal discomfort, this test's imaging of your pelvis and stomach may help rule out other potential reasons for your symptoms.

Treatment options for IBS

It could be challenging to attempt and control IBS. However, almost everyone with IBS can discover a therapy that works for them.

Lifestyle changes
  • Regular exercise
  • Consume more frequent, smaller meal
  • Avoid smoking
  • Keep a food journal to identify the meals that cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) flare-ups

Changes in diet
  • Consume extra fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts to increase the amount of fiber in your diet.
  • Supplement your diet with more fiber, such as Metamucil
  • Drink lots of fluids and electrolytes, including water and coconut water
  • Avoid caffeine, including coffee and soda
  • Consider the low-FODMAP diet, a dietary regimen that can help symptoms go better.

  1. Alosetron (Lotronex)

    Alostron works by blocking serotonin's function in your intestines and slows bowel movements.

    Used for women whose primary IBS symptom is diarrhea that has lasted for at least 6 months. It’s only used after previous therapies have failed.

    When stop taking alostron the symptoms can come back within 1 week.

  2. Rifaximin (brand: Xifaxan)

    This antibiotic is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) when the main symptom is diarrhea.

  3. Linaclotide (brand: Linzess)

    When constipation is the primary symptom of chronic irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), linaclotide is used to treat the condition.

  4. Lubiprostone (brand: Amitiza)

    Lubiprostone can be used to treat women with constipation as the primary symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.

  5. Laxatives

    Over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives, such as Miralax may be recommended by your doctor for constipation.

  6. Anti-diarrhea medications

    Diarrhea can be controlled with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as loperamide (Imodium A-D).

  7. Anticholinergic medications

    Medications like dicyclomine (Bentyl), for example, can ease uncomfortable bowel spasms. They are occasionally recommended to patients who experience episodes of diarrhea.