Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but changes in your diet and medication can soothe the painful symptoms and make the condition more manageable.

upset stomach caused by gerd

Pain and cramping is a constant visitor for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

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According to the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Association, roughly 10 to 15 percent of Americans suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms. Characterized by such symptoms as cramp-like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, IBS can be uncomfortable and distressing. However, it does not cause permanent harm to the intestines, or lead to intestinal bleeding or serious disease such as cancer.

The colon of an IBS patient is more sensitive and reactive. It can react to stimuli by moving contents too quickly through the colon, causing watery diarrhea. The colon can also react by slowing down the movement of contents, causing constipation.

The cause of IBS is not known. IBS is called a functional disorder rather than a “disease.” Women are more susceptible to IBS than men, and it usually begins around age 20. Emotional stress is often blamed for causing IBS, since no physical damage to the colon is detected. However, while stress may worsen symptoms of IBS, other factors are also at play.

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What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms?

The following have been reported to worsen symptoms of IBS:

  • Large meals
  • Wheat, rye, barley, chocolate, milk products, alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • High levels of fructose
  • Carbohydrates in foods like wheat, beer, garlic, onions, artichokes, asparagus,
  • Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, fruits, cabbage, beans, lentils, and soy
  • Insoluble fiber found in wheat and bran
  • Large amounts of fat

Women with IBS may experience more symptoms during their menstrual periods, suggesting that reproductive hormones can exacerbate IBS.

Your doctor will need a complete medical history and a physical examination to make a diagnosis. The doctor may perform stool or blood tests, X-rays, or an endoscopy to rule out other possible causes.

Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

IBS can’t be cured, but it can be treated with dietary changes, stress management, probiotics, and antispasmodic, anti-diarrhea, and anti-constipation drugs.

There’s evidence and data to suggest that antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and hypnotherapy may reduce symptoms of IBS and improve quality of life. Some IBS patients find it useful to review their diets with a registered dietitian or physician.


Originally published in May 2016 and updated.

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Comments
  • I was noticing that the symptoms for IBS are quite similar, and many of them are the same as endometriosis. I have endometriosis and I feel like I have had it all or at least most of my adult life, beginning when I was in college (about age 22). Endometriosis also tends to flair up at and during the monthly cycles. Doctors did not catch it for a long time and instead said it was IBS and gave me treatment which did not help, and actually made things worse
    While I do think there is a true ailment of IBS, I also think that endometriosis and IBS have very similar symptoms and should be aware of that. I sure wish doctors were more aware of it.

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