Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition affecting the small or large bowel. In people with IBS, the intestines squeeze too hard or not hard enough and cause food to move too quickly or too slowly through the intestines. IBS usually begins around age 20 and is more common in women. Abdominal pain has been reported as primarily crampy or a generalized ache with superimposed periods of abdominal cramps, although sharp, dull, gas-like, or nondescript pains are also common. This is reality for Roberts and up to 58 million other Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome at some point in their lives.


The cause of IBS is not known, and as yet there is no cure. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not cause permanent harm to the intestines and does not lead to intestinal bleeding of the bowel or to a serious disease such as cancer. Ordinary events such as eating and distention from gas or other material in the colon can cause the colon to overreact in the person with IBS.The colon muscle of a person with IBS begins to spasm after only mild stimulation or ordinary events such as the following:

* eating
* distention from gas or other material in the colon
* certain medications
* certain foods


For most people, signs and symptoms of irritable bowel disease are mild. Only a small percentage of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms. The symptoms of dyspepsia are thought to originate from the upper gastrointestinal tract; the esophagus, stomach, and the first part of the small intestine. The symptoms may or may not be related to meals. Women are more likely to suffer from constipation than diarrhoea. Other symptoms include a bloated abdomen, excess wind, nausea, vomiting and indigestion. Some people also experience a sense of fullness. If the main symptom is diarrhoea, food passes through the digestive system faster than usual.


If you think you may have IBS, see your doctor. Your doctor will take a medical history and ask about your symptoms. Then your doctor will perform some medical tests.

Treatment is directed toward education, reassurance, achievement of a healthier lifestyle, and occasional medication. Dietary advice may include avoiding offending foods that can trigger symptoms. Fiber supplementation has been shown to be effective for symptoms of constipation.

For some people who have IBS, certain foods may trigger symptoms. The following suggestions may help prevent or relieve some IBS symptoms:

* Avoid caffeine.
* Limit your intake of fatty foods. Fats increase gut sensations, which can make abdominal pain seem worse.
* If diarrhea is your main symptom, limit dairy products, fruit, or the artificial sweetener sorbitol.
* Increasing fiber in your diet may help relieve constipation.
* Avoiding foods such as beans, cabbage, or uncooked cauliflower or broccoli can help relieve bloating or gas.