What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic and unpredictable disruption of the digestive system that can include symptoms such as bowel cramp and stomach cramps.
Everyone suffers the odd upset, but if you experience one or more of these symptoms regularly, it may be an indication of IBS and you should consider discussing your symptoms with your doctor:
- Abdominal pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after doing a poo
- Bloating – your tummy may feel uncomfortably full and swollen
- Constipation - you may have fewer than three bowel movements a week; stools that are hard, dry or lumpy; stools that are difficult or painful to pass; or a feeling that not all the stool has passed
- Diarrhoea – you may have watery poo and sometimes need to poo suddenly
- Excessive wind
- Feeling that you haven’t fully emptied your bowels
- Passing mucus from your bottom
- Occasionally experiencing an urgent need to go to the toilet
See a GP if you think you might have IBS. They can check for IBS and do some tests to rule out other problems.
What causes IBS?
The triggers of IBS differ from person to person, and symptoms can vary in type, frequency and severity from person to person. Symptoms can include suffering from stomach cramps or bowel cramps, as well as loose stools, constipation and flatulence. However, we do know that stress, illness and diet are significant contributing factors to the condition – and that it can be painful, embarrassing and inconvenient to live with.
Did you know?
The exact causes of IBS are unknown but it is suggested that when the muscles in your intestines contract abnormally, it results in symptoms of IBS. It is also thought that abnormalities in the nerves in your digestive system may cause you to experience heightened discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool.There are other factors that might play a role in IBS too.
Prolonged periods of stress affect your natural digestive rhythm.
Previous gastrointestinal illness can make you more susceptible to IBS.
Certain foods and drinks can trigger the symptoms of IBS, such as fatty or fried food, processed snacks like crisps or biscuits, and drinks that contain caffeine.
Hormonal changes, such as menstruation, can aggravate IBS.
We look more closely at what can trigger IBS symptoms on our Causes of IBS page.
Who does it affect?
Anyone can suffer from IBS at any time in their life, but it usually makes its first appearance between 20 and 30 years of age. Women are twice as likely to be affected than men.
IBS is a chronic condition, which means it can persist for some time, or may recur throughout your life. Some people will find they suffer more severely, or for longer periods of time than others, and require medication for stomach cramps and other symptoms.
What can I do about IBS?
Over the counter treatments are available for diagnosed IBS, for example products such as COLPERMIN® IBS Relief Capsules to help relieve all IBS bowel symptoms.