Understanding IBS

IBS maleIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a commonly diagnosed disorder of the gut. Being a functional disorder means there is a problem with the function of the gut but no abnormality in the structure. In most cased the gut may appear normal, even when looked at under a microscope. IBS causes various symptoms. Up to 1 in 5 people in the UK develops IBS at some stage in their life. IBS can affect anyone at any age, but it commonly first develops in young adults and teenagers.

What is IBS?

IBS is a condition that occurs when the bowel is not functioning normally like it should and is commonly caused by overactivity or hypersensitivity of the gut.

What causes IBS?

There are many causes, but some of them are unclear.  One or more of the following may play a part:

  • Overactivity of the nerves or muscles of the gut. Problems with spinal alignment can affect the nerves that control the bowel and result in IBS.
  • Stress or emotional upset may also play a role because of the impact it can have on the nervous system. About half of people with IBS can relate the start of symptoms to a stressful event in their life. Symptoms tend to become worse during times of stress or anxiety.
  • Intolerance see allergies / allergy testing to certain foods may play a part in some cases. However, this is thought to be only in a small number of cases. People usually become intolerant as a result of the bowel not working properly.
  • Infection and bacteria in the gut. IBS is not caused by an ongoing gut infection. However, in about 1 in 6 cases, the onset of symptoms seems to follow a bout of gastroenteritis (a gut infection which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting). So, perhaps a virus or other germ may sensitise or trigger the gut in some way to cause persisting symptoms of IBS.
  • Also, in some cases, symptoms get worse after taking a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill certain harmless and good bacteria in the gut, which changes the balance of bacterial types in the gut, predisposing to irritability of the bowel.


Common Symptoms:

  • Pain and discomfort may occur in different parts of the abdomen.
  • Bloating and swelling of your abdomen may develop from time to time. You may pass more wind than usual.



  • Some people have bouts of diarrhoea, and some have bouts of constipation.Some people have bouts of diarrhoea that alternate with bouts of constipation.
  • Sometimes the stools become small and pellet-like. Sometimes the stools become watery or ribbony. At times, mucus may be mixed with the stools.You may have a feeling of not emptying your rectum after going to the toilet.
  • Some people have urgency, which means you have to get to the toilet quickly. A morning rush is common. That is, you feel an urgent need to go to the toilet several times shortly after getting up. This is often during and after breakfast.
  • Other symptoms sometimes occur and include: nausea (feeling sick), headache, belching, poor appetite, tiredness, backache, muscle pains, feeling quickly full after eating, heartburn, and bladder symptoms.


Some people have occasional mild symptoms. Others have unpleasant symptoms for long periods. Many people fall somewhere in between, with flare-ups of symptoms from time to time.


IBS will often be divided into one of three categories:

  •  Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly bloating and constipation.
  • Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly urgency to get to the toilet, and diarrhoea.
  • Those who alternate between constipation and diarrhoea.


Note: passing blood is not a symptom of IBS. You should tell a doctor if you pass blood.


Treatment suggestions:


Quick & Effective Relief


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