Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disorder of the intestines. IBS does not cause inflammation and does not lead to a more serious condition.
The cause is unknown. With IBS, the muscles in the colon do not work normally and may spasm. If you have IBS, your colon may be more sensitive and react strongly to food and medicine. Food allergies and certain bacteria may add to the symptoms. IBS may also occur after having the stomach flu.
IBS is more common in women. It typically begins in young adulthood. Factors that may increase your chances of IBS:
Symptoms usually come and go, and range from mild to severe. They include:
These factors may worsen your symptoms:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. In many cases, a diagnosis can be made based on this. Since there is no test for IBS, doctors have created a checklist to make a diagnosis.
Stool and blood tests may be done to rule out other problems. Images of the bowel may also be taken with:
There is no cure for IBS. Treatment focuses on controlling symptoms.
The following changes to your diet may help control symptoms:
Foods that are more likely to cause problems include:
Foods that may reduce risk of spasm include:
Regular exercise can help improve bowel function and other IBS symptoms.
Stress and tension can make symptoms worse. Relaxation techniques may help lower response to stress.
Learning about IBS and talking to others with IBS may also ease stress.
Medicine may help to manage symptoms. Choices may include:
There are no current guidelines for preventing IBS because the cause is unknown.
American College of Gastroenterology
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
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Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 1/20/2021