Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Written by Dr Claudia Pastides, 11th March 2019


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable condition that affects the digestive system and causes abnormal bowel function (such as cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation).


Causes

The exact cause of IBS is unfortunately not known. Possible causes include infection of the bowel, genetic factors, antibiotic use, inflammation of the bowels and dietary factors. There seems to be a link between stress, anxiety, depression and IBS.

Risk factors

You are more likely to have IBS if you:

  • Are of younger age
  • Are female
  • Have a family history of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Suffer from stress or anxiety

Typical Symptoms

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Excess gas
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Symptoms are relieved by having a bowel movement

Common Treatment

Treatment involves a combination of identifying and managing stress, eating a health balanced diet and taking medications that target irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

When to speak to a doctor

IBS can often be managed via a digital consultation.

It is important to speak to a doctor if you experience:

  • Weight loss
  • Bloody stools
  • Vomiting
  • Change in what your stools look like
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent pain that is not relieved after having a bowel movement
  • Persistent depressive or anxiety symptoms

Prevention

The best way to prevent IBS is by:

  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding foods that trigger symptoms
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Regular exercise
  • Getting plenty of sleep



More information

NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/

The IBS network - https://www.theibsnetwork.org/

Association of UK Dietitians - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/