Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most prevalent digestive diseases. It usually causes abdominal pain, bloating, or a change in bowel habits. Women are more likely to be affected than men.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Causes of IBS

IBS’s exact cause is unclear. It’s most likely a mix of:

  • Higher sensitivity to the gas inside your bowel
  • More frequent or harder squeezing (contractions) of the muscles lining your bowel
  • Genetic make-up

Your symptoms could be triggered by psychological factors such as stress. Workplace anxiety, exams, relationship problems, and life events such as divorce or loss can all cause stress.

It’s possible that your symptoms will worsen after you eat. Symptoms can also be triggered by certain foods, such as tea, coffee, and fatty foods.

Antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen (Nurofen) and diclofenac (Voltarol) can exacerbate symptoms.

Symptoms of IBS

Most individuals with IBS find their symptoms frustrating on occasion but do not require medical attention. However, for some people, the illness has a significant negative impact on their quality of life. Consult your doctor if you’re having trouble coping with your symptoms. IBS sufferers frequently encounter symptoms from time to time.


The most frequent symptom of IBS is abdominal pain or discomfort. This could be linked to stomach cramps. The pain can range from minor to severe, and it can be relieved by passing wind or opening the bowels. It is frequently exacerbated by eating.

Pain can strike at any time of day, although it is more common in the evening. The ups and downs of pain relating to their menstrual cycle are common among women.

Shift in bowel habits

The consistency of your faeces might range from firm and pellet-like to loose and runny. You could also just pass minor amounts of mucus. Constipation and diarrhoea may alternate in your bowel motions. You may have an urgent desire to open your bowels at times, or you may find it difficult to do so. You may feel as if your bowels haven’t been entirely empty afterwards.

IBS usually manifests itself in one of three ways: discomfort, constipation, or chronic diarrhoea.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms associated with IBS include:

  • Excess wind
  • Feeling sick
  • Indigestion
  • Backache
  • Feeling Tired
  • A sense of fullness
  • Bladder issues

Other than IBS, these symptoms could be caused by different issues. You should seek medical advice from your doctor.

Diagnosis of IBS

Your doctor will examine you, ask you questions about your symptoms, and  inquire about your medical history.

Your doctor will ask about your pain, when it occurs, and what causes it to improve or worsen in order to reach a diagnosis. Bowel movements might also be considered as well. Other questions might include  how often you go to the bathroom, how easy it is to go, and how your faeces look. You might be asked to get some blood work done.

If you’re under 50 and have typical IBS symptoms, you probably won’t require any further tests. If your symptoms are linked to more serious gastrointestinal symptoms, your doctor may refer you for additional tests. Symptoms may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Blood in your faeces
  • Symptoms first appearing after age 60
  • A family history of bowel problems
  • Diarrhoea without other symptoms
  • Anaemia

A sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be recommended by your doctor. An endoscope, a flexible tube-like apparatus, is used to view within your bowel. biopsy (a small sample of tissue) might be taken from your gut lining for laboratory testing. This test aids in the diagnosis of more serious illnesses including ulcerative colitis.

Other Examinations

If your doctor suspects an infection is causing your IBS, you will be requested to provide a sample of your faeces, then sent to a laboratory to be tested For testing, this will be sent to a laboratory. An X-ray of your abdomen, such as a barium enema, may be required. A liquid containing a small amount of barium, a metal, is run through a tube into your back passage where it enters the large intestine in the test. The barium allows inflamed or ulcerated areas of the colon to show up clearly on X-ray images. 

Treatments for IBS

Despite that no simple cure exists, IBS symptoms can be alleviated by undergoing treatments. Changes in your lifestyle, medications, and psychological treatments are all examples. You can determine which is best suited for you with the guidance of your doctor.

Dietary suggestions

A healthy lifestyle is the greatest method to improve symptoms for most people with IBS. The following dietary guidelines may be useful.

  • Maintain a regular eating schedule.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as tea and coffee, as well as alcohol and soft drinks, should be limited.
  • Reduce your intake of insoluble fibre-rich foods such as wholemeal bread, wholegrain rice, and bran-containing cereals.
  • Aim for three servings of fruit per day.
  • Processed foods should be avoided. It’s possible that these contain resistant starch, which is hard to digest.
  • If you have diarrhoea, avoid sorbitol, an artificial sweetener. Some sugar-free sweets and drinks, as well as diet products, contain this.
  • To treat constipation, take the supplement ispaghula powder.
  • Eating oats, which are found in certain cereals and porridge, and a spoonful of linseeds per day may help to relieve bloating symptoms.

Other lifestyle advice

Exercise on a regular basis can help alleviate your symptoms. It promotes regular bowel movements and relieves stress. If stress appears to be triggering your symptoms, try practising stress management or relaxation strategies. Keeping a journal to correlate your symptoms to events in your life might also be beneficial.

It may be easier to deal with the problem that is generating the symptoms if you are able to pinpoint the events that trigger your symptoms. If these self-help methods don’t work, seek medical guidance. Doctors  can assist you in identifying things that may be aggravating your IBS and offer alternative treatments. If particular foods continue to trigger your symptoms despite following the suggested diet guidelines, consulting a dietitian may be helpful.


Some of the symptoms of IBS might be relieved with over-the-counter medications available from your pharmacy. The medications include:

  • Anti-diarrhoea medications, e.g. loperamide (Imodium) may be helpful. They should only be taken when needed, not on a regular basis.
  • If you suffer from constipation, certain laxatives, such as ispaghula husk (eg Fybogel), can help. These are laxatives that cause bloating. Bowel-stimulating laxatives, such as senna, are stronger laxatives that may aid. However, before using them on a regular basis, consult your doctor.
  • Antispasmodic medications including mebeverine hydrochloride (Colofac), alverine citrate, and peppermint oil capsules can aid with stomach cramps and wind.
  • Some yoghurts contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria and yeasts. There is some scientific evidence that specific strains of bacteria can be useful for relieving IBS symptoms, but the results are inconclusive.
  • If you need pain killers,  ibuprofen (e.g., Nurofen) or aspirin may aggravate your symptoms. Use paracetamol instead.

Always read the patient information that comes with your drug and get advice from your pharmacist if you have any questions.

IBS medications may be prescribed by your doctor. These include the prescription-only versions of the above-mentioned medications.  Even if you aren’t depressed, low-dose antidepressants can help with IBS pain.

If your symptoms don’t improve after a year, your doctor may suggest psychological therapies.

Cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnosis, and psychotherapy are examples of talking treatments that can help relieve symptoms. These may be especially beneficial for people who are dealing with personal issues. Your doctor may refer you to a suitable therapist.