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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic intestinal disorder that causes abdominal pain, cramping, gas, and bloating, in addition to bouts of diarrhea or constipation. IBS does not cause inflammation or permanent harm, nor does it progress to more serious conditions. Past names for this disorder include colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, spastic bowel, and functional bowel disease.

The Intestines

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The exact cause of IBS is not known. There may be several causes, and IBS may itself be a collection of different conditions, each having a different cause. IBS is placed in a class of diseases known as "functional disorders," a term that means no structural, biochemical, or infectious cause has yet been found.

Possible triggers for IBS include:

  • Ordinary events such as eating or bloating from gas-producing foods
  • Certain foods such as milk products, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and fatty foods, or simply larger meals
  • Stress
  • Emotional conflict
  • Menstrual periods

IBS is a common condition affecting 10%-20% of American adults.

REFERENCES:

Fauci AS, Braunwald E, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 4th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2000.

IBS. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-care/conditions-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome. Accessed May 25, 2017.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113627/Irritable-bowel-syndrome-IBS. Updated March 17, 2017. Accessed May 25, 2017.

4/22/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113627/Irritable-bowel-syndrome-IBS: Johannesson E, Simrén M, Strid H, Bajor A, Sadik R. Physical activity improves symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011;106(5):915-922.

Last reviewed May 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD  Last Updated: 12/20/2014

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