Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS : How to check if you have IBS?


The gastrointestinal system, usually known as the stomach and intestines, is affected by the illness known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Constipation, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort are all possible symptoms. There may also be cramping. IBS is a chronic condition that needs ongoing care.

Only a tiny percentage of IBS sufferers experience severe symptoms. Some individuals can manage their symptoms by controlling their food, way of life, and stress. Medication and psychotherapy might be used to manage symptoms that are more severe.

IBS does not alter intestinal tissue or raise your chance of developing colorectal cancer.


IBS's precise aetiology is unknown.There appear to be a number of elements at play, including:

Intestinal muscle contractions. Layers of muscle that contract as they carry food through your digestive tract line the inside of your intestines. Gas, bloating, and diarrhoea might result in stronger and longer than typical contractions. Weak contractions might hinder the passage of food and result in dry, firm stools.

System of nerves. When your belly extends from gas or stools, problems with the nerves in your digestive system might be the source of your discomfort. Your body may overreact to normal changes in the digestion process if brain and gut signals are not properly synchronised. Pain, diarrhoea, or constipation may follow.

Serious infections. These occur during an episode of acute diarrhoea brought on by bacteria or a virus. Gastroenteritis is what this is. Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines may potentially be linked to IBS.

Stress in early childhood. IBS symptoms are more common in those who have experienced stressful experiences, particularly in their early years.

Gut microbial changes. Changes in bacteria, fungi, and viruses are a few examples. These organisms often live in the intestines and are important for maintaining health. According to research, IBS patients' microorganisms may be different from those of healthy individuals.


IBS signs and symptoms can be brought on by:

Food. Uncertainty exists about the contribution of dietary intolerance or allergies to IBS. True food allergies seldom result in IBS. but when people consume specific meals or drinks, their IBS symptoms deteriorate. Wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk, and fizzy beverages are a few of them.

Stress. Most IBS sufferers find that times of elevated stress make their symptoms worse or more frequent. Stress does not, however, produce symptoms; it just makes them worse.

How to check if you have IBS?

If you have a consistent change in bowel movements or other IBS symptoms, see your doctor. They could be a sign of something more severe, such as colon cancer. Serious signs and symptoms include:

  • Loss of weight
  • Vomiting at night
  • Bleeding
  • Anaemia
  • Vomiting

Risk Factors

Many people get IBS symptoms on occasion. The following can increase the risk of IBS:

An early age. Adults under the age of 50 are more likely to get IBS.

Women. IBS is more prevalent among women. The use of estrogen medication before or after menopause increases the chance of developing IBS.

Have IBS running in your family? Genes, common environmental variables within a family, or a mix of genes and environment may all be involved.

Anxiety, depression, or other mental health. A risk factor might also be a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.


IBS symptoms might vary, but they frequently last for a long time. The most typical ones are:

  • Constipation-related pain in the abdomen, including cramps and bloating
  • Changes to the appearance of bowel movements
  • The frequency of your bowel motions changing
  • The sense of incomplete ejection
  • A rise in gas or mucus in the stool are two additional symptoms that are frequently associated with IBS.


IBS treatment focuses on symptom relief to help you live as symptom-free life as possible.

Mild symptoms can typically be reduced by stress management techniques, dietary and lifestyle changes, and stress management approaches. Try to:

  • Avoid eating things that make you sick.
  • Eat meals high in fibre.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Regular exercise and adequate sleep
  • Your doctor could advise you to cut out the following foods from your diet

Foods high in gas. Avoid meals and drinks that may cause more gas if you have bloating or gas, such as carbonated and alcoholic beverages.

Gluten. According to research, even those without celiac disease who quit consuming gluten (wheat, barley, and rye) find improvements in their diarrhoea symptoms.

FODMAPs. There are sensitive individuals. to a group of carbohydrates known as FODMAPs—fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols—including fructose, fructans, lactose, and others. Certain cereals, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products contain FODMAPs.

You may make these diet adjustments with the aid of a dietician.

Your doctor could recommend therapy if your issues are moderate or severe, especially if you suffer from depression or if stress tends to exacerbate your symptoms.

Medication recommendations based on your symptoms can include:

Vitamins with fibre. Constipation may be managed by taking a supplement like psyllium (Metamucil) with water.

Laxatives. Your doctor can advise over-the-counter laxatives such polyethylene glycol or magnesium hydroxide oral if fibre is ineffective in relieving constipation (Miralax).

Drugs to treat diarrhoea. Loperamide (Imodium A-D), an over-the-counter drug, can assist to halt diarrhoea. A bile acid binder, such as cholestyramine (Prevalite), colestipol (Colestid), or colesevelam, may also be recommended by your doctor (Welchol). Bloating can result from bile acid binders.

Cholinergic antagonists. Medications like dicyclomine (Bentyl), for example, can ease uncomfortable bowel spasms. They are occasionally recommended to patients who experience episodes of diarrhoea. Although typically safe, these drugs can lead to diarrhoea, dry mouth, and impaired eyesight.

Tricyclic mood stabilisers. Although this kind of drug helps alleviate melancholy, it also suppresses the neurons' ability to regulate the intestines. This could lessen discomfort. Your healthcare practitioner could advise a lower-than-normal dose of imipramine (Tofranil), desipramine (Norpramin), or nortriptyline if you experience diarrhoea and stomach discomfort without depression (Pamelor). Potentially lessened side effects if you take the drug before night; side effects may include dry mouth, tiredness, blurred vision, and dizziness.

Antidepressants SSRI. If you suffer from depression, pain, and constipation, SSRI antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or paroxetine (Paxil) may be able to assist.

Medicines for pain. Severe discomfort or bloating may be relieved by pregabalin (Lyrica) or gabapentin (Neurontin).

Certain IBS sufferers may use the following medications:

Alosetron (Lotronex). Alosetron is made to delay the passage of waste through the lower gut and relax the colon. Only healthcare professionals registered in a certain programme are authorised to prescribe it. Only women with severe instances of diarrhoea-predominant IBS who have not responded to conventional therapies should use aloestrone. Men are not permitted to utilise it. There has been Alosetron related to uncommon but significant adverse effects, hence it ought to only be used if other therapies fail.

Eluxadoline (Viberzi). By lessening intestinal muscle spasms and fluid production, eluxadoline can relieve diarrhoea. Additionally, it aids in improving the rectus muscle tone. Abdominal pain, nausea, and moderate constipation are possible side effects. Pancreatitis, which can be dangerous and is more prevalent in some people, has also been linked to eluxadoline.

Rifaximin (Xifaxan). This antibiotic can help with diarrhoea and bacterial overgrowth.

Lubiprostone (Amitiza). Your small intestine's fluid secretion can be increased with lubiprostone to aid in stool transit. It can be administered to women with IBS and constipation, but only if their symptoms are severe and other therapies have not helped.

Linaclotide (Linzess). In order to facilitate stool passage, linaclotide can also stimulate fluid production in your small intestine. Although linaclotide might cause diarrhoea, taking it 30 to 60 minutes before a meal may be beneficial.

Complications of IBS

Haemorrhoids can result from persistent diarrhoea or constipation.

Additionally, IBS is linked to:

Poor standard of living. IBS sufferers frequently complain of low quality of life. According to research, people who have IBS miss three times as many days of work as those who do not experience gastrointestinal problems.

Mood disturbances. Having IBS symptoms might make you depressed or anxious. IBS might deteriorate due to worry and depression as well.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 15, 2023

Next review due: Mar 15, 2025

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