What can cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common “functional” bowel problem. By “functional” we mean that there is no actual structural bowel problem involved, it just means that the bowel isn’t functioning as it should.

Formally, IBS is identified as someone having multiple episodes of abdominal pain or discomfort, with a frequency of at least three bouts in the past month for the past three months, and at least two of the three following:

• Diarrhoea or constipation concurrent with onset of pain
• Change in the frequency of defecation concurrent with the onset of pain
• Abdominal pain stops after defecation

IBS is a very real problem and up to one third of the population experience symptoms from time to time. Women are slightly more affected than men and the usual age range for people to seek advice from their GP is 20 – 40 years old. Most people’s symptoms are mild and so they may not need to see a doctor for treatment. However, some people have really troublesome symptoms, especially abdominal cramps, bloating, and urgent diarrhea which can seriously affect their quality of life. IBS is a very common reason for people to visit their GP and many will refer patients with IBS symptoms on to a hospital specialist for further investigations. On the plus side if IBS is diagnosed then it isn’t going to kill you, nor will it increase your likelihood of developing cancer or other related bowel conditions.

Symptoms of IBS

The most significant symptoms in IBS are abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habit. Many people with IBS get crampy abdominal discomfort or pain which comes and goes and is often relieved by opening the bowels. Their bowels are often irregular sometimes diarrhea or constipation and quite often swinging between the two extremes. Either needing to go to the toilet in a real hurry or not going for days. Other symptoms vary but include bloating, swollen tummy, passing mucus (slime),lacking in energy and sleeping poorly

Alarm Symptoms

If you experience any of these then you should see your doctor:

A change in your bowel habit – especially if you are over the age of 40

Passing blood from the back passage

Unintentional weight loss of more than 2kg (4 pounds)

Diarrhea waking you from sleep

What Causes IBS?


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It’s important to switch to an IBS diet in order to see how your body reacts to the change, a low FODMAP diet has been shown to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms which causes many people to suffer from IBS.



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