What are the causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal disorder that is characterized by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. Older terms for IBS include spastic colon, irritable colon, and nervous colon.
The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown. However, some factors which appear causative are:
- Intestinal muscle hyperactivity
- Decreased or increased intestinal motion
- Oversensitive nerves of the intestine
- Alterations in populations of gut microorganisms (microbiome)
- Intolerance to certain foods
- Being younger than 35
- Being a woman in the Western world
Women in Western countries are two to three times more prone IBS than men. Hispanics, Asians, and Africans have a lesser prevalence of IBS than other ethnicities.
What foods trigger IBS attacks?
- Intolerance to fatty foods leads to abdominal fullness and related symptoms
- Consuming milk and milk products may aggravate the symptoms
- Drinking carbonated beverages can lead to gas formation and eventually abdominal pain
- Sugar and sugar substitutes can cause excess burping, cramping and diarrhea.
- Intake of caffeine and legumes can worsen symptoms of abdominal discomfort and anxiety.
Consumption of the following foods may exacerbate IBS symptoms:
- Wheat products
- Chicory root
What are the symptoms and signs of IBS?
The early signs and symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain and alterations in bowel habits. Abdominal pain may worsen after meals. Both diarrhea or constipation are common. Other symptoms include:
- Abdominal fullness
- Painful intercourse
- Poor sexual desire
- Increased urine frequency and urgency
- Increased muscle pain
- Incomplete emptying of stools
- Worsening of symptoms before the start of the menstrual period
The following are symptoms are not consistent with the IBS and should be reported to the physician:
- Weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Blood in the stools
- Symptoms worsening at night
- Symptoms worsening over time
- The onset of disease in the middle age or the later stage of life
- Abnormally smelly stools
- Diarrhea without abdominal pain
- Gluten intolerance
How is IBS diagnosed?
Diagnostic tests include
- Laboratory tests
- Complete blood cell count to screen for anemia, inflammation, and infection
- Stool examinations to detect pathogens or microorganisms
- Thyroid function tests to diagnose hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate to detect inflammation
- C-reactive protein for inflammation
- CT scan to screen for tumors, obstruction and pancreatic disease
- Gall bladder ultrasonography would be recommended in case of frequent indigestion and post-meal pain.
What is the treatment for IBS?
Treatment options include:
- lifestyle changes
- stress management
- dietary changes
- managing the symptoms with medications
No cure for IBS exists. Therefore, treatment is focussed on eliminating or lessening the severity of symptoms.
Anti-diarrheal drugs such as loperamide help in reducing the frequency of bowel movements, and laxatives, such as milk of magnesia or polyethylene glycol, may soften the stools to relieve constipation.
Other drugs that may be used to treat IBS include:
- spasm-relieving drugs (antispasmodics)
Antibiotics, such as rifamixin, may be used to treat the overgrowth of bacteria in the intestine.
Probiotics are an excellent source of essential gut bacteria; however, their use remains unclear.
- What Is Avascular Necrosis and How Does It Affect Bones?
- The Arch of the Human Foot Was Key to Upright Walking, Scientists Say
- Worried About Cataracts? Here's What You Need to Know
- FDA Issues Warning About Compounded Versions of Wegovy, Ozempic
- Sick Restaurant Workers Fuel Many Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
- More Health News »
What should you know about IBS?
- IBS is a chronic disease and may take years to resolve.
- Lifestyle modifications and dietary changes help control the disease.
- Dietary fiber can resolve constipation.
- Managing or avoiding stress may help to tackle the disease.
- The relapse rate for IBS is high; however, life expectancy is not affected.
- Antidepressants are prescribed for anxiety or depression, which exacerbate IBS symptoms.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Top What Are the Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Related Articles
artichokeArtichoke is available over the counter (OTC) as an herbal supplement and is used for medicinal purposes to treat indigestion, lower cholesterol, and to protect the liver. Other uses include appetite loss, and gallbladder problems, high blood fat levels (hyperlipidemia), high blood pressure, hepatitis C, and irritable bowel syndrome. Common side effects of artichoke include gas (flatulence), upset stomach, diarrhea, and allergic reactions. Consult with your doctor before taking artichoke supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
bisacodylBisacodyl is an over-the-counter (OTC) laxative medication used to treat occasional constipation and irregularity in bowel movement, and for cleansing the colon before colonoscopy. Common side effects of bisacodyl include mild stomach cramps, electrolyte and fluid imbalances, nausea, vomiting, rectal burning, vertigo, and diarrhea. Bisacodyl overdose can cause severe diarrhea and electrolyte imbalance. Avoid chronic use of bisacodyl, which may lead to laxative dependence. Use bisacodyl with caution and only with your doctor's recommendation if pregnant or breastfeeding.
dicyclomine, BentylDicyclomine is a drug prescribed for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Common side effects include dry mouth (xerostomia), blurred vision, confusion, agitation, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, constipation, difficulty urinating, and seizures. Consult your doctor before taking if pregnant or breastfeeding.
docusateDocusate is an over-the-counter (OTC) stool softener used to treat constipation. Common side effects of docusate include excessive bowel activity, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, intestinal obstruction, throat irritation and bitter taste (with syrup/liquid), rash (rare), and rectal bleeding (very rare). Most docusate overdoses are accidental in children, however, overdose may result from overuse by some people in an effort to lose weight. Keep docusate out of reach of children. Consult your doctor before taking docusate if pregnant or breastfeeding.
IBS SlideshowWhat is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Learn about symptoms, causes, and foods that trigger IBS. Get lifestyle tips for managing IBS through diet and with IBS medications.
IBS-D (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea)
IBS-D or irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea refers to IBS with diarrhea. Symptoms of IBS-D include
- intestinal gas (flatulence),
- loose stools,
- frequent stools,
- abdominal pain,
- diarrhea, and
New non-FDA approved IBS tests may help diagnose IBS and IBS-D. Treatment of IBS-D is geared to toward managing symptoms with diet, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a GI disorder with symptoms of constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. IBS treatment includes medications, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes.
IBS Triggers (Prevention)Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disease that can affect the quality of those who suffer from this condition. People with IBS can make lifestyle changes that may modify or control the number and severity of episodes. Certain foods, medications, and hormone levels may trigger IBS episodes, for example fatty foods, dairy products, eating foods in large quantities, foods that contain high levels of sorbitol, foods that produce intestinal gas (broccoli, onions, cabbage, and beans), chocolate, caffeine, physiological stress, some antibiotics, some antidepressants, medicine with sorbitol, and menstrual pain. Exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes can decrease IBS flares, and prevent the number and severity of IBS episodes of diarrhea and constipation.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) QuizWhat are symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Take this quiz and get quick facts on causes and treatment options for this common and uncomfortable digestive disorder.
magnesium citrate (Citrate of Magnesia, Citroma)Magnesium citrate (Citrate of Magnesia, Citroma) is an OTC medicine that retains water in the intestines to relieve constipation. A magnesium citrate supplement is used for treating heartburn. Side effects include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, and an electrolyte imbalance. Dosage depends whether it is an adult or child being treated. Magnesium citrate interacts with some antibiotics. Magnesium citrate (Citrate of Magnesia, Citroma) is an over-the-counter medicine that helps relieve and treat constipation. Magnesium citrate supplements also are used for treating heartburn.
Side effects of magnesium citrate include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, and an electrolyte imbalance.
Dosage of magnesium citrate depends on a person’s age. Magnesium citrate should not be combined with some antibiotics, for example, doxycycline (Vibramycin), tetracycline, minocycline (Minocin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and levofloxacin (Levaquin).
methylcelluloseMethylcellulose is water-insoluble fiber that is used as a bulk-producing laxative to relieve occasional constipation and to maintain regularity of bowel movements. Common side effects of methylcellulose include excessive bowel activity, gas (flatulence), and fecal impaction (if taken with inadequate water). Methylcellulose can cause fecal impaction if taken without sufficient water. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
MoviPrep (PEG-3350, Sodium Sulfate, SodiumChloride, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Ascorbate)MoviPrep is a prescription bowel prep medication used by adults to clean the colon before a colonoscopy. Serious side effects of MoviPrep include changes in certain blood tests, ulcers of the bowel, bowel problems (ischemic colitis), and serious allergic reactions.
Neomycin SulfateNeomycin Sulfate is an antibiotic used to reduce the risk of infection during surgery of the bowel. Neomycin is also used to reduce the symptoms of hepatic coma. Common side effects of neomycin sulfate include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
peppermint oilPeppermint oil is the essential oil that has been historically used orally and topically to treat a variety of conditions such as digestive disorders, cough, and other upper respiratory symptoms. Do not administer peppermint oil to infants and children. Common side effects of peppermint oil include diarrhea, heartburn, mouth ulcers, burning mouth syndrome, allergic reactions, flushing, and headache. Avoid use of oral peppermint oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
sennaSenna is a stimulant laxative medication available over the counter used to treat occasional constipation and bowel movement irregularity in both adults and children. Senna is also used for cleansing the colon before colonoscopy in adults. People also use senna for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and weight loss. Common side effects of senna include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or pain, gas (flatulence), urgent and frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, urine discoloration, kidney inflammation (nephritis), rash, low potassium level (hypokalemia), melanosis coli, finger clubbing (with chronic use), wheezing, and severe allergic (anaphylactoid) reaction. Avoid chronic use of senna; may lead to laxative dependence and electrolyte imbalance. Use senna with caution during pregnancy. Consult your doctor if planning to use senna while breastfeeding.
What Is an Ileoanal Anastomosis (J-Pouch) Surgery?An ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (J-pouch) is a surgical procedure to restore the stomach and bowel (gastrointestinal) continuity after the surgical removal of the large bowel (the colon and rectum). It is performed under the following conditions: inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or, rarely, Crohn’s disease), certain cancers of the large bowel, disorders of excessive colonic polyps, and toxic megacolon.
What Is Laparoscopic Left Colectomy/Hemicolectomy?A colectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing a segment of the colon. During a colectomy, a surgeon removes a damaged section of the intestine and reattaches the healthy parts of the colon. Laparoscopic colectomy is used to treat and prevent diseases and conditions that affect the colon, such as bleeding, bowel obstruction, colon cancer, and more.