Diet and Nutrition

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Basic Facts

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Basic Facts

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an abdominal disorder, which is characterized by pain, discomfort, interfered bowel habits (diarrhea and constipation), cramping, and bloating. Although IBS symptoms are persistent, there are many things that can be done to suppress its effects. IBS does not trigger serious illnesses such as cancer and inflammatory bowel disorders.

The pain that is associated with irritable bowel syndrome is often described as a spasm or colic. It is erratic and the length of each bout of pain varies from a few days to a few months. In some cases, people have found that the pain eases on passing wind or stool (feces).

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There are three types of irritable bowel syndrome that have been identified:

  1. Irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) - This type is usually characterized by abnormally frequent stools, unsatisfactory bowel movements, nausea, abdominal pain, gas, and loose stools. Bowel movement is often sudden and uncontrollable.
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) - The symptoms usually include infrequent stools, strained unsatisfactory bowel movements, hard and lumpy stools, abdominal pain, and gas.
  3. Irritable bowel syndrome with alternating constipation and diarrhea (IBS-A) - This type of IBS happens when constipation and diarrhea occur at the same time.

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may vary from person-to-person. It may be more severe for some than others.

Prevalence of IBS

IBS affects 25-45 million individuals in the US. About 2 in every 3 IBS patients are females. While 1 in every 3 IBS sufferers are males. People of all ages, including children, can be affected by IBS. It is estimated that about 14 percent of the global population suffers from IBS. Most people affected by IBS are below 50 years of age. However, other people such as the elderly can be affected by the condition as well.

IBS Causes

Stress alone does not cause IBS. Symptoms might emerge from disturbances occurring in coordination between the brain, nervous system, and the gut. This can trigger changes in the regular bowel movements and sensations.

The real cause of IBS isn’t known yet. However, since there is an interaction between the gut and the human brain, stress can deteriorate or trigger symptoms. IBS also tends to be unpredictable. Signs change and are often contradictory. Constipation and diarrhea can be alternating. Lasting systems can interrupt with your daily activities and hugely limit your potential.


The effects of IBS can vary from mild disturbance to extreme debilitation. It can disrupt many aspects of an individual’s professional, emotional, and social life. People suffering from IBS must fight several symptoms that often harm their emotional, physical, social, economic, and educational well-being.

Identifying IBS

The irritable bowel syndrome can only be identified by health professionals. According to a survey conducted by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), nearly 2,000 patients affected with IBS were diagnosed with the disease 6.5 years after the signs began.

Although many treatments are available, not all IBS treatments work for everyone. Research indicates that in the future, better treatments can be achieved. Even though IBS is prevalent in many populations, a few patients seek medical assistance for their symptoms.

About 20-40 percent of all gastroenterologist consultations are because of IBS signs and symptoms. Individuals should cope with several symptoms that compromise every element of their lives. Since no structural problems occur in the intestines, many people might think that the symptoms are purely in their mind.

Is there a cure for IBS?

IBS doesn’t have a standard cure. However, if you embrace proper dieting and lifestyle changes, you can alleviate the symptoms. In addition, you should consult your doctor and find out an appropriate health program for the proper management of your condition.

IBS Risk Factors

There are several risk factors associated with IBS. They include gender, age, family history, and sensitivity to different foods. For instance, it has been established that women and young children are more susceptible to IBS as compared to men. Again, people between 20 to 40 years old could easily be affected by irritable bowel syndrome.

When to See a Doctor

If you notice blood in your stool, chances are, you’re suffering from IBS. Therefore, be quick to see your doctor for a confirmed diagnosis. Don’t prescribe any complementary treatments for yourself. Knowing the exact problem can be helpful in improving your symptoms.

IBS symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, constipation, and bloating. Remember, constipation and diarrhea could occur at the same time, which is a condition referred to as IBS-alternating (IBS-A) type.

  • There is no medical test that can help identify irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors usually rely on the patient’s symptoms and by ruling out other causes of the symptoms. If you experience symptoms that interfere with your daily life, it is imperative you consult a doctor. Even the smallest detail should be discussed with your doctor so that a suitable treatment plan can be prescribed.
  • Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome usually depends on the symptoms you have, the frequency and severity of the symptoms, and how they affect your daily life. 
  • In most cases, treatment for IBS includes diet and lifestyle changes. However, in certain cases, medication is prescribed to manage severe symptoms.

Below are a few recommended tips to manage irritable bowel syndrome symptoms:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle - Include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and drink plenty of water. Ensure that exercise is a part of your daily activity. Maintain a regular sleep schedule. A healthy lifestyle boosts your immune health, and help ward off IBS symptoms.
  • Avoid foods that trigger or worsen your symptoms - Often with IBS, it is noticed that certain foods trigger an IBS attack or worsen the symptoms. Therefore, it has been advised to maintain a food diary to track and avoid the types of food that bother you. A few foods that have been known to worsen IBS include coffee, tea, dairy products such as milk and cheese, alcohol, chocolates, carbonated drinks, and certain vegetables such as beans and cabbage. 
  • Manage stress levels - Stress and emotional disturbances have often been seen to worsen IBS symptoms. Exercising regularly, doing yoga, and meditation techniques have been known to help with stress relief.

It is important to remember that irritable bowel syndrome is not life-threatening. However, the condition is often chronic and could be a lifelong ailment. The risk involved makes getting a doctor’s advice extremely important and crucial.