Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that affects your lower GI (gastrointestinal). This includes the small intestine, large intestine, and colon. It is diagnosed when a person has belly pain or spasm associated with a change in the appearance or frequency of their bowel movements. It causes:
When you have IBS, your colon looks normal. But it does not work the way it should.
Health experts have not been able to find an exact physical cause for IBS. It is often thought that stress is one cause. Stress may make IBS symptoms worse.
IBS is a long-term, chronic condition. It can be painful. But it doesn’t cause lasting harm to your intestines. And it doesn’t lead to serious disease such as cancer.
There is no link between IBS and Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or other inflammatory bowel diseases. However, people with inflammatory bowel disease can also have IBS.
The exact cause of IBS isn’t known. there are many possible causes of IBS, and they differ from person to person. This means that some people can have the same symptoms, but different causes of their IBS. Some experts think that if you have IBS, your colon may be more sensitive than normal. That means it has a strong reaction to things that should not normally affect it.
When you have IBS, your colon muscles begin to move and tighten uncontrollably (spasm) after only mild stimulation or after normal events such as:
Women with IBS seem to have more symptoms during their periods. This could mean that the chemicals (reproductive hormones) released during a woman’s menstrual cycle may increase IBS symptoms.
Some things can make IBS symptoms worse. The 2 things most likely to make your IBS symptoms worse are the foods you eat and having emotional stress:
You are more likely to be at risk for IBS if you:
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Some of the most common symptoms include:
The symptoms of IBS may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider to be sure.
Your healthcare provider will look at your past health and give you a physical exam. He or she will also do lab tests to check for infection and for redness and swelling (inflammation).
There are usually no physical signs to tell for sure that you have IBS. There is also no exact test for IBS.
Your healthcare provider will do lab tests and imaging tests to make sure that you don’t have other diseases. These tests may include the following:
Your healthcare provider will create a care plan for you based on:
Treatment for IBS may include:
Whole wheat bread, granola bread, wheat bran muffins, waffles, popcorn
Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, corn, green beans, green peas, acorn and butternut squash, spinach, potato with skin, avocado
Apples with peel, dates, papayas, mangos, nectarines, oranges, pears, kiwis, strawberries, applesauce, raspberries, blackberries, raisins
Cooked prunes, dried figs
Peanut butter, nuts
Baked beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chili with beans, trail mix
The diarrhea and constipation that happen with IBS can cause hemorrhoids. If you already have hemorrhoids, they may get worse.
Your quality of life may be affected by IBS, because the symptoms may limit your daily activities.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider: