What is Irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a quite common condition that affects the large intestine leading to abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation or both. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress. More severe symptoms can be treated by medication and counseling.

IBS does not increase your risk of colon cancer and does not cause changes in your bowel tissue.


IBS symptoms vary but are usually present for a long time. They include:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping and bloating.
  • Changes in appearance of bowel movement.
  • Changes in how often you have a bowel movement.
  • Bloating increase gas or mucus in the stool.


The precise cause of IBS is unknown. Following factors appear to play a role.

  • Muscle contractions in the large intestine. Muscle contractions in the intestine that are stronger and last longer than normal can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. Weak intestinal contractions can slow food passage and lead to hard and dry stool.
  • Nervous system. Abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system may cause you to experience pain. Poorly coordinated signals between and the intestines can cause pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Changes in gut microbes. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi normally reside in the intestines and play a key role in health. Research indicates that these differ in patients with IBS from those in healthy people.
  • Life Stress. People exposed to stressful events especially in childhood, tend to have symptoms of IBS.
  • Infection. IBS can develop after a severe bout of gastroenteritis caused by a bacterium or a virus.


Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by:

Stress. IBS patients have worse and more frequent symptoms during periods of increased stress. While stress may aggravate symptoms, it does not cause them.

Food. Many people have worse IBS symptoms when they eat or drink certain food and beverages. These include wheat, dairy, beans, cabbage, citrus fruits, milk, and carbonated drinks.

Risk Factors

You are more likely to have IBS if you:

  • Are young. IBS occur more frequently in people under age 50.
  • Are female. IBS is more common among women. Estrogen therapy also is a risk factor for IBS.
  • Have anxiety, depression, or other mental health issue.
  • Have a family history of IBS.


IBS is associated with:

Poor Quality of life. Many people with IBS report poor quality of life. People with IBS miss three times as many days from work as those without IBS.

Mood disorders. Experiencing the signs and symptoms of IBS can lead to depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety also can make IBS worse.

When to seek medical attention

Following symptoms indicate a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. Seek medical attention if you have.

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Diarrhea at night
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Persistent pain that is not relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement
  • .