Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects the colon (large intestine). It is a common condition experienced by people from all walks of life. Although most patients with this condition can manage their symptoms through natural, non-invasive methods, in some serious cases, more intense intervention is required.

The causes of IBS are still being explored. It is thought that it is a result either of the muscular contractions in the large intestine being too strong or too weak, or of poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the nerves in the digestive system.

The symptoms of IBS include cramping, bloating, digestive problems, abdominal pain and excessive gas. Although uncomfortable, it is important to note that IBS does not increase your risk of colorectal cancer.


What are the symptoms?

The symptoms and severity of IBS vary from one person to the next. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas and bloating
  • Mucous in the stool
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation

More severe cases of IBS may be accompanied by weight loss, rectal bleeding and nocturnal abdominal pain.


People with IBS often report that the following factors affect the severity of their symptoms:

  • Nutrition: symptoms tend to be aggravated when certain foods and beverages are consumed. These include alcohol, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, broccoli, cauliflower, and some fruits.
  • Hormonal changes: women often find that their symptoms are worse around the time of their periods.
  • Stress: the stress associated with major life events, such as changing jobs or losing a loved one, may aggravate symptoms.
  • Illness: some illnesses can trigger attacks of IBS, such as gastroenteritis.


Am I at risk of getting Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The most common risk factors for IBS include the following:

  • Age and gender: women are affected about twice as frequently as men, generally under the age of 45.
  • Family history: individuals who have one or more family members with IBS may be at higher risk.
  • Mental illness or history of trauma: IBS has higher occurrence in people with depression or anxiety, and in those who have been victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence.

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