What is Irritable bowel syndrome? What is the treatment for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

 What is Irritable bowel syndrome? What is the treatment for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disease that affects 6-18% of people globally. Irritable bowel syndrome affects the large intestine and is a common condition. It is a chronic illness that needs to be managed long-term. Only a small percentage of IBS patients experience severe symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a form of gastrointestinal illness (GI). These illnesses often known as disorder of the gut-brain connection, are caused by issues with the way the gut and brain communicate. The digestive tract becomes extremely sensitive as a result of these issues. They also alter the contraction of the gut muscles. Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and constipation are a result of this.

Types of IBS

IBS is classified by researchers according to the sort of bowel movement issues one has. The type of IBS one has can have an impact on the treatment. Certain medications are only effective in certain types of IBS. People with IBS frequently have normal bowel movements on some days and abnormal bowel movements on other days. The type of IBS one has is determined by these irregular bowel movements.

i. IBS with constipation (IBS-C): The majority of the faeces is lumpy and firm.

ii. IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D): The majority of the faeces is watery and loose.

iii. IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M): Having both hard and lumpy bowel movements as well as loose and watery, on the same day.

What causes IBS?

IBS has an etiology that is unknown. The following factors appear to play a role:

1. Muscle contractions in the intestine: Layers of muscle line the walls of the intestine, which flex to move food through the digestive tract. Contractions that are stronger and last longer might cause gas, bloating and diarrhoea. Food movement can be slowed by weak intestinal contractions, resulting in firm, dry stools.

2. Nervous system: When the abdomen extends from gas of faeces, abnormalities in the nerves in the digestive system may cause one to feel more uncomfortable than usual. Due to a lack of coordination between the brain and the intestines, the body may overreact to changes in the digestive process, causing pain, diarrhoea, or constipation.

3. Severe infection: After a severe attack of diarrhoea (gastroenteritis) caused by bacteria or a virus, IBS might develop. IBS may also be linked to an overabundance or bacterial overgrowth of microorganisms in the intestines.

4. Early life stress: People who have been exposed to stressful experiences, especially as children, are more likely to develop IBS symptoms.

5. Changes in  gut microbes: Changes in bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which ordinarily reside in the intestines and play an important role in health. Microbes in persons with IBS may differ from those in healthy people, according to research.

IBS symptoms can be triggered by:

1. Food: Food allergy or intolerance’s significance in IBS is not well known. IBS is rarely caused by a real food allergy. Many people, however, experience worsening IBS symptoms after eating or drinking certain foods or beverages, such as wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk, and carbonated beverages.

2. Stress: During times of increased stress, most persons with IBS report worse or more frequent signs and symptoms. Stress can exacerbate symptoms without actually causing them.

Who gets IBS?

  • IBS affects up to two times as many women as it does men. People under the age of 50 are more prone than those above the age of 50 to develop IBS. IBS can be caused by a number of factors, including:
  • Having a family member with a history of IBS.
  • A history of stressful or challenging life events in childhood, such as abuse.
  • Having a serious infection in the digestive tract.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

IBS symptoms and indicators vary, although they are frequently present for a long time. Among the most common are:

Passing stool causes abdominal pain, cramps, or bloating.

Bowel movement changes in appearance.

Changes in the bowel movement frequency.

Increased bloating, gas or mucus in the stool.

1. Pain and cramps

The most prevalent symptom and a critical determinant in diagnosis is abdominal pain. The cooperative signals get twisted in IBS, resulting in uncoordinated and unpleasant tension in the digestive tract muscles.

2. Diarrhoea

One of the three basic kinds of IBS is diarrhoea-predominant IBS. It affects about one-third of IBS patients. In IBS, accelerated bowel movement can also cause a sudden, strong desire to go to the bathroom. The diarrhoea-predominant type’s stool is also loose and watery, and it may contain mucus.

3. Constipation

The most prevalent type of IBS is constipation-predominant IBS, which affects about half of all IBS patients. The colon collects more water from faeces as transit time slows, making it more difficult to pass. In IBS, constipation causes abdominal pain that subsides with bowel movements. It frequently results in the sensation of an incomplete bowel movement. Unnecessary straining is a result of this.

4. Alternating Constipation and Diarrhoea

About 20% of IBS patients experience mixed or alternating constipation and diarrhoea. This kind of IBS is more severe than the others, causing more frequent and severe symptoms.

5. Changes in bowel movement

Mucus can build up in the stool as a result of IBS, which is not frequently associated with other causes of constipation. Blood in the stool could indicate the presence of potentially dangerous medical condition.

6. Gas and Bloating

In IBS, the digestive system is disrupted, resulting in increased gas production in the intestines. This could cause bloating, which is unpleasant. 

7. Food Intolerance

Approximately 70% of people with IBS claim that certain foods aggravate their symptoms. Two-thirds of people with IBS avoid specific foods altogether. These people may cut out a variety of foods from their diet.

8. Fatigue and Difficulty Sleeping

Fatigue is reported by more than half of patients with IBS. IBS is also linked to insomnia, which manifests itself as difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking, and a lack of energy in the morning.

9. Anxiety and Depression

IBS has also been connected to anxiety and depression. It is unclear is IBS symptoms are a manifestation of mental stress or if the stress of living with IBS makes people more vulnerable to mental health issues.

How is IBS diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose the symptoms, medical and family history, and perform a physical exam to identify IBS. Doctors may perform tests to rule out other health issues in some cases.


To diagnose IBS, the doctor will ask about the symptoms and search for a pattern in the symptoms. If one suffers from abdominal pain, the doctor may diagnose IBS. He will also inquire about the duration of symptoms. Other symptoms will be discussed with the doctor that could indicate other illness and not IBS.

Medical and family history

The doctor will inquire about:

A history of digestive illness in the family.


Recent infections.

Stressful situations that occurred prior to the onset of symtptoms.

What you eat

History of other health issues

Physical exam

During a physical examination, the doctor will normally:

Check for swelling in the abdomen.

Listen to sounds in the stomach, using a stethoscope.

Tap on the abdomen to check for soreness or pain.


Doctors do not usually use tests to diagnose IBS. To rule out other health issues, the doctor may recommend blood tests, stool tests, and other tests.

What is the treatment for IBS?

IBS can be treated with dietary supplements and lifestyle changes, as well as medications, probiotics, and mental health therapies.

1. Lifestyle changes

  • Changes in the diet may aid in the treatment of symptoms. The following changes may be suggested by doctors:
  • Consume more fiber
  • Gluten should be avoided.    
Follow a particular diet known as the low FODMAP diet.

Other lifestyle adjustments, according to research, may aid with IBS symptoms, including:

  • Increase physical activity.
  • Decrease stress in your life to the greatest extent.
  • Get adequate sleep.

2. Medications

The doctor may prescribe medications to help manage IBS symptoms. He may prescribe laxatives to help with constipation. When increasing fibre in diet is not enough, fibre supplements can be used instead of laxatives. Other medications may be used to relieve abdominal pain like antispasmodics and antidepressants.

3. Mental health therapies

To aid with IBS symptoms, the doctor may suggest mental health therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy, gut-directed hypnotherapy, and relaxation training.

IBS is a difficult condition to live with. Although there is no cure, diet and lifestyle changes can help control and improve symptoms.


1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016

2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4342-irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs

3. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome

4. https://aboutibs.org/what-is-ibs/

5. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/

6. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome

7. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/irritable-bowel-syndrome-treatment

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