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What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? Test, Symptoms, Diet

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Definition and Facts)?

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder.
  • IBS is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a more serious condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract and can result in severe complications.
  • Symptoms of IBS include
  • The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is currently unknown. It is thought to result from a combination of abnormal gastrointestinal (GI) tract movements, increased awareness of bodily functions, and a disruption in the communication between the brain and the GI tract.
  • IBS-D is irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. Symptoms most common with IBS-D include:
    • Sudden urges to have bowel movements
    • Abdominal pain or discomfort
    • Intestinal gas (flatulence)
    • Loose stools
    • Frequent stools
    • Feeling of being unable to completely empty bowels
    • Nausea
  • IBS-C is irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. Symptoms most common with IBS-C include:
    • Hard, lumpy stools
    • Straining during bowel movements
    • Infrequent stools
  • There is a new blood test that may help doctors diagnose some forms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • IBS is diagnosed by exclusion, which means a doctor considers other alternatives first, performing tests to rule out other medical problems.
  • Home remedies for IBS include avoiding certain foods that "trigger" or worsen diarrhea, bloating and gas such as cruciferous vegetables (for example, cauliflower, wasabi, kale, and broccoli), and legumes (for example, black beans, edamame, soy nuts, and fava beans).
  • Other home remedies to relieve symptoms of IBS include adding fiber to the diet, drinking plenty of water, avoiding soda, eating smaller meals, and eating more low fat and high carbohydrate foods.
  • There is currently no known cure for IBS. Medical treatment for irritable bowel syndrome includes antispasmodic medicines, antidiarrheal medicines, antidepressants, laxatives, and other drugs.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic (long-term) disease, and symptoms usually recur.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome has also been called spastic colon, functional bowel disease, and mucous colitis though. IBS is not a true "colitis." The term colitis refers to a different group of conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, microscopic colitis, and ischemic colitis. These are other types of bowel disease.

What Causes IBS?

  • IBS is not contagious, inherited, or cancerous. It occurs more often in women than in men, and the onset occurs before the age of 35 in about half of the cases. IBS occurs in 5% to 20% of children.
  • IBS also has developed after episodes of gastroenteritis.
  • It has been suggested that IBS is caused by dietary allergies or food sensitivities, but this has not been proven.
  • Genetics also is suggested as a potential cause of IBS, but so far a hereditary link has not been found.
  • Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may worsen during periods of stress or during menstruation, but these factors are unlikely to be the cause that leads to the development of IBS.
Last Reviewed 11/21/2017

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Experience

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IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Triggers

Many people suffering from IBS are aware of very specific foods, or situations (psychological stress) that trigger and worsen their symptoms. Some foods and drinks trigger constipation (IBS-C) and some trigger diarrhea (IBS-D). Triggers for IBS-D include: Foods high in fat and FODMAPs, certain foods that cause IBS symptoms, for example:

  • Some grains (wheat, rye)
  • Fruits (pears, honey, apples)
  • Vegetables (artichokes, onions, garlic)...

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Irritable Bowel Disease »

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional GI disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of specific and unique organic pathology.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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