What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel syndrome is an intestinal disease that causes pain in the stomach, gas, diarrhea and constipation. This illness is associated with stress, anxiety or depression. You can find more information below.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome , also known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) , is a chronic disorder of the large intestine. It is characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and stool movement problems, which can be difficult to treat. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are not usually severe or life-threatening, but finding relief can be frustrating.

To have a confirmed diagnosis, your condition must include two of the three main symptoms, including improvement of symptoms after defecation, pain that begins when stool frequency changes, or pain that begins when stool changes consistency.

Other key symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal pain and discomfort, as well as bloating, cramping, gassiness, mucus in the stool, and fatigue. All of these can be exacerbated by stress, certain foods, or hormonal changes, especially in women.

Treatment focuses on relieving your symptoms with supplements and medications. While many people with irritable bowel syndrome struggle to cope on their own, talking to your doctor can make a big difference. Your doctor may recommend a variety of treatment options, such as medication, dietary counseling, or alternative treatments.

What causes irritable bowel syndrome?

The exact cause of the condition of irritable bowel syndrome has not been determined. The symptoms leave no visible signs of damage or disease in the digestive tract, making irritable bowel syndrome difficult to investigate microscopically.

However, factors that may play a role in the pathophysiology of the condition include:

  • Overactive muscle contractions in the gut: The walls of the gut are lined with layers of muscle that contract as food passes through the digestive tract. Stronger and longer-than-normal contractions can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. On the other hand, weaker, shorter bowel contractions can slow the passage of food and cause hard, dry stools and constipation, triggering irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Nervous system abnormalities, overstimulation: The abdomen is normally stretched when gas or stool is present. However, abnormalities in the nerves of the digestive tract can cause 1) more-than-normal yawning causing discomfort or 2) overactive signals suggesting yawning when everything is truly normal. In either scenario, dysfunctional nerves result in pain, diarrhea, or constipation .
  • Inflammation in the gut: Some people with irritable bowel syndrome have an increased number of immune system cells in their gut. This immune system response is associated with pain and diarrhea.
  • Severe infection or bacterial overgrowth: Irritable bowel syndrome can develop after a serious infection of the gastrointestinal tract (gastroenteritis) caused by bacteria or a virus. It may also be associated with an excess of bacteria (bacterial overgrowth) in the intestines.
  • Changes in gut bacteria (microflora or microbiome): Microflora is the “good” bacteria that lives in the gut and plays a key role in health. The microflora in people with irritable bowel syndrome may be dysfunctional or different from the microflora found in healthy people.

Who is at risk?

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are common, and many people may experience these symptoms occasionally. However, the following populations are more likely to develop and experience this condition.

  • Young people: Irritable bowel syndrome is more common in people under the age of 50.
  • Women: In the United States, for example, this condition is more common among women. It is present in about 14 out of every 100 women versus nine out of every 100 men. This may be due to estrogen therapy, which is likely to increase the risk of the disease.
  • People with mental health problems: Anxiety , depression, and other mental health problems are associated with irritable bowel syndrome. A history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse may also be a risk factor.
  • People with a family history of IBS: No genetic link has been found for irritable bowel syndrome; however, sometimes this condition can run in families.
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What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

Based on the three criteria that define irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) , or irritable bowel syndrome, you must have had abdominal pain or discomfort for at least three days per month in the past three months and two or more of the following:

  • Improvement of symptoms after defecation
  • Onset of pain when stool frequency changes
  • Onset of pain when stool consistency changes

Other symptoms

Other symptoms experienced with irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Stool changes (these changes may include diarrhea, constipation, or both)
  • Swelling
  • Kramp
  • gassiness
  • mucus in stool
  • Tiredness


Additionally, there are some triggers that can cause irritable bowel syndrome symptoms to flare up or reappear:

  • Stress: Most people with this condition experience worse or more frequent symptoms during times of increased stress. Although stress aggravates symptoms, it does not cause them.
  • Specific foods: True food allergies do not cause irritable bowel syndrome. But many people experience worse symptoms when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages, such as wheat, dairy products, beans, and sodas.
  • Hormonal changes: The role of hormones (especially estrogen) can trigger irritable bowel syndrome; many women report symptoms that increase or worsen with their menstrual period.

How is irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed?

During the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, the doctor will ask questions such as:

  • What symptoms do you have?
  • Do the symptoms come and go?
  • How often do you experience symptoms?
  • Do you get worse after eating certain foods?
  • How long have you been experiencing the symptoms?

The doctor may also want to check for swelling or a lump in your abdomen.

Information: Before your appointment, it may be helpful to write down details of your symptoms to help you remember.

Other tests

There is no specific test designed for this condition, but you may need the following tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms :

  • a blood test to check for problems such as celiac disease
  • Tests on a sample of your stool to check for infections and inflammatory bowel disease

You usually won’t need further tests after the doctor is sure what the problem is.

What if the diagnosis is confirmed?

If your doctor thinks you have irritable bowel syndrome, they will talk to you about what it is and what the treatment options are. It can be difficult at first to understand everything they tell you. Later, when a question pops into your mind, you can jot down those questions and make another appointment to go over it.

How is irritable bowel syndrome treated?

Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) , or irritable bowel syndrome, focuses on relieving symptoms so you can live as normally as possible. Mild symptoms can often be controlled by managing stress and making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

In this regard, you can try the following:

  • Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms
  • eat high fiber foods
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • exercise regularly
  • get enough sleep

Also, your doctor may recommend removing the following from your diet:

  • High gaseous foods: If you experience bloating or gas, you can avoid carbonated and alcoholic beverages, caffeine, raw fruit and certain vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
  • Gluten: Studies show that some people with irritable bowel syndrome report improvement in diarrhea symptoms if patients stop eating gluten (wheat, barley, and rye), even if they don’t have celiac disease.
  • FODMAP diet: Successful results can be obtained in irritable bowel syndrome with a low FODMAP diet. However, this diet should be applied in consultation with a dietitian. On the FODMAP diet, fructose (honey, corn syrup, berries, and honey), lactose (milk and dairy products), fructan (onions, garlic, and wheat), galactan (soybeans, lentils, and dried beans), polyols (apricots, peaches, nectarines, avocado, cherry and sweeteners) are restricted.

A dietitian can assist you with these dietary changes. If your problems are moderate or severe, your doctor may recommend psychological counseling. Counseling may be good for you, especially if you have depression or stress tends to worsen your symptoms.


Based on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend medications such as:

  • Fiber supplements: Taking a supplement like psyllium with fluids can help control constipation.
  • Laxatives: If fiber doesn’t help symptoms, your doctor may prescribe oral magnesium hydroxide or polyethylene glycol.
  • Anti-diarrhea medications: Over-the- counter medications such as loperamide can help control diarrhea. Your doctor may also prescribe a bile acid binder such as cholestyramine, colestipol, or colesevelam. Bile acid binders can cause bloating.
  • Anticholinergic medications: Medications such as dicyclomine can help relieve painful intestinal spasms. They are sometimes prescribed to people with bouts of diarrhea. These medications are generally safe but can cause constipation, dry mouth, and blurred vision.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: These types of drugs can help relieve depression as well as block the activity of neurons that control the gut to help reduce pain. If you have non-depressive diarrhea and abdominal pain, your doctor may recommend a lower than normal dose of imipramine, desipramine, or nortriptyline. Side effects that may decrease if you take the medicine at bedtime include drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness, and dry mouth.
  • SSRI antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants such as fluoxetine or paroxetine may be helpful if you are depressed, have pain and constipation.
  • Pain medications: Pregabalin or gabapentin can relieve severe pain or swelling.
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Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

Special drugs

Medications approved for certain people with irritable bowel syndrome include:

  • Alosetron: Alosetron is designed to relax the colon and slow the movement of waste down the gut. Alosetron can only be prescribed by physicians enrolled in a special program. It has been associated with rare but significant side effects, so it should only be considered when other treatments have not been successful.
  • Eluxadoline: Eluxadoline can relieve diarrhea by reducing muscle contractions and fluid secretion in the gut and increasing muscle tone in the rectum. Side effects may include nausea, abdominal pain and mild constipation. Eluxadoline has also been associated with pancreatitis, which may be serious and more common in some people.
  • Rifaximin: This antibiotic can reduce bacterial overgrowth and diarrhea.
  • Lubiprostone: Lubiprostone can increase the secretion of fluid in your small intestine to aid the passage of stool. It is approved for women with constipation and is usually only prescribed for women with severe symptoms that do not respond to other treatments.
  • Linaclotide: Linaclotide can also increase fluid secretion in your small intestine to help you pass stool. Linaclotide can cause diarrhea, but taking the medicine 30 to 60 minutes before a meal can help with this.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

Alternative medicine

The role of alternative therapies in alleviating irritable bowel syndrome symptoms is unclear. You should consult your doctor before starting any of these treatments . Alternative treatments include:

  • Hypnosis: A trained professional will teach you how to get into a relaxed state and then guide you to relax your abs. Hypnosis can reduce abdominal pain and bloating. Few studies support the long-term effectiveness of hypnosis for irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Mindfulness training: Mindfulness is the act of intensely noticing what you are feeling and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can alleviate irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
  • Acupuncture: Researchers have found that acupuncture can help improve symptoms for people with irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes the smooth muscles in the intestines. It may provide short-term relief in irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, but study results are inconsistent.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are “good” bacteria that normally live in your gut and are found in certain foods and supplements, such as yogurt. Recent research shows that certain probiotics can relieve IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
  • Stress reduction: Yoga or meditation can help reduce stress. You can take lessons or practice at home using books or videos.

What is good for irritable bowel syndrome?

Keep a food and symptom diary. This will help you find out if your symptoms are related to your current eating habits.

  • If it becomes clear that a certain food or drink is causing the discomfort, try removing it from your diet to see if that helps. For example, some people may find that spicy foods trigger their symptoms.
  • If your symptoms don’t improve after a few weeks, you can add the food back into your diet.
  • If you eliminate many foods from your diet, you may be missing out on some important nutrients. Talk to an experienced dietitian about other foods to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
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Improve your overall digestion.

  • Eat at regular intervals every day.
  • Avoid eating late at night.
  • Enjoy three meals and one to two snacks spaced evenly throughout the day.
  • Try not to overeat at any one time.
  • Eat when you feel comfortable. Give yourself enough time to eat your food slowly.
  • Limit distractions and try not to eat at your desk or in front of the TV.
  • Reduce the amount of air you swallow. Chew your food thoroughly, avoid chewing gum and carbonated drinks.

Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Choose water as your main fluid.
  • Aim to drink about 1.5 to 3 liters of fluid each day. If you have constipation, drinking plenty of water can help.
  • If drinking large amounts of fluids with meals is causing your symptoms to worsen, try drinking your fluids between meals instead.

Aim for a fiber intake that works for you.

  • Some people find that too much or too little fiber can make their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms worse. If you eat a higher fiber diet, try reducing the amount of fiber and see if your symptoms improve. If you eat a lower fiber diet, try slowly increasing your fiber intake and see if your symptoms improve.
  • There are two main types of fiber:
    • Soluble fiber absorbs excess water in the colon and forms a thick gel that softens stool. It can help relieve both diarrhea and constipation. Oats, oat bran, ground flaxseed and psyllium are good sources of soluble fiber.
    • Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and can aid regular and painless bowel movements. It is found in wheat bran, whole grains and whole grain products such as whole wheat bread and pasta, and brown rice. If you find that these foods are making your symptoms worse, limit them and opt for foods with soluble fiber instead.

Avoid high-fat foods and snacks.

  • Consuming too much oil at once can cause cramps and diarrhea. Examples of high-fat foods include high-fat cheese, cream, ice cream, fatty ground beef, sausage, chicken with skin, fried foods, pastries, cakes, cookies, and chocolate.
  • Consuming moderate amounts of healthy dietary fats such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds throughout the day is part of a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Choose lower-fat meat and dairy products, such as low-fat yogurt, lean meats, and lower-fat cooking methods, such as baking instead of stir-frying.

Adjust your caffeine intake based on your symptoms.

  • Caffeine affects your digestive tract, which can make diarrhea worse. If you have diarrhea, limit or avoid caffeine.
  • Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cola and some other soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate.
  • Many doctors recommend no more than 400 mg of caffeine a day (the amount found in three small cups of coffee).

Limit or avoid alcohol.

  • Alcohol irritates the stomach and digestive tract, which can trigger your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit it.

Learn more about the Low-FODMAP Diet.

  • If following the advice here doesn’t improve your symptoms, consider talking to an experienced dietitian about a low-FODMAP diet.
  • The goal of this diet is to help you figure out which FODMAP foods are causing your symptoms and in what quantities. The goal is to provide the most flexible and varied diet that provides the best control of your symptoms.

Other considerations:

  • Probiotics:
    • Currently, there is insufficient evidence to recommend a specific probiotic for irritable bowel syndrome. If you decide to try a probiotic, discuss this with your doctor.
  • Mint oil:
    • Peppermint oil may improve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms by relaxing the smooth muscle of the gut.
    • While most people tolerate peppermint oil, it can cause heartburn in some .

If you’re considering taking a probiotic or peppermint oil, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Lactose intolerance:
    • Some people cannot digest lactose, a sugar naturally found in milk and dairy products. This is called lactose intolerance.
    • Symptoms include bloating, gas, pain and diarrhea.
    • If you think you are lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor about getting tested.
  • Celiac disease:
    • Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can be similar to other conditions, such as celiac disease. If you have a family history of celiac disease or experience frequent diarrhea, consult your doctor to get tested for celiac disease.
    • A gluten-free diet is necessary for people diagnosed with celiac disease. A gluten-free diet is not recommended for managing irritable bowel syndrome unless you have celiac disease.

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