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Irritable bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition and can affect up to 15% of the population. It can have a wide variety of symptoms and can cause functional intestinal disorders. Patients undergo all tests and nothing abnormal is seen in the tests. It is also referred some time as Spastic colon or nervous stomach.


Irritable bowel syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms from mild to severe. However, common symptoms are as below:

  • Pain and cramps in the abdominal area which is often related to the bowel movements and sometimes improves after the bowel movements
  • Constipation or diarrhea. Based on this IBS can be constipation type or diarrhea type and occasionally patients can have mixed symptoms
  • Feeling of fullness, bloating and gas
  • Abnormal stool consistency and occasional passage of mucus in the stool
  • Feeling of urgency are incomplete evacuation and fullness.
  • Symptoms are usually relieved after a bowel movement


There are no specific diagnostic tests to confirm irritable bowel syndrome. It is a diagnosis of exclusion after ruling out other conditions. Your colorectal surgeon or gastroenterologist may perform different tests including blood tests, stool tests, colonoscopy, and imaging studies like CT scan to check for other conditions. Also, patients usually have specific features in this condition which include:

Abdominal pain or discomfort at least three days in a month or last three months and associated with two or more of the following conditions- which include improvement of symptoms after a bowel movement, onset associated with the change in frequency of stool or change in the appearance or shape of the stool.

Another key point, it is not usually associated with symptoms like rectal bleeding, fever, weight loss.

Causes of Irritable bowel syndrome

Certainly, there is no defined reason for this condition but, It can occur as a result of abnormal functioning or communication between the neural system and bowel. Abnormal muscles contractions of your bowel can cause the symptoms of cramping and feeling of blockage or difficulty passing the stool. Overall, irritable bowel syndrome affects women twice more frequently than men. Occasionally, patients can have irritable bowel syndrome after infection with certain bacteria. In this condition you may need antibiotic treatment to clear the infection. Other associated factors can be environmental factors, genetic factors, bacterial overgrowth, hypersensitivity of intestine, altered functioning of intestinal nervous system and altered hormonal regulations.

In a nutshell, there is no one single cause for irritable bowel syndrome. Poorly digested carbohydrate artifacts, excessive bile, intolerance of certain foods and other genetic factors can all play a role in this condition. All these factors usually lead to changes in the function and motility of the intestine leading to all these symptoms.

Emotional stress can also contribute to irritable bowel syndrome symptoms even though stress is not a direct causative factor. Reducing the stress may definitely help to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.


As mentioned before, irritable bowel syndrome is a condition of exclusion. It is not a life-threatening or serious condition. Your physician may advise you regarding stress reduction, physical therapy and exercise, use of behavior therapy and also use of relaxation techniques. Also, you should avoid certain foods which may be triggering the symptoms. You should take low FODMAP (Fermentable oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) diet as per some studies in literature. Please avoid specific foods which can produce gas and cause bloating as cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, onions and beans.

Another key point, food high in fiber can help reduce the symptoms of diarrhea or constipation. However, there is no specific single medication meant for treating the condition. Most patients can commonly control their symptoms with diet, stress reduction and lifestyle management. Occasionally, your physician may prescribe you certain medications to control the symptoms.

For more information please visit:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – NIDDK (

Home – Colon & Rectal Care Center of Phoenix (

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