Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Types, Symptoms, Causes, And More

Digestion is one of the life processes which determines the overall outlook of our health. Without proper digestion, it is not possible to sustain adequate nutrition.

A sound digestive system not only does the job of digesting food to provide energy, but it also determines how it is used. A grumpy mood, lack of focus, and energy drain come in a package in absence of healthy digestion.

One of the most frequently observed digestive issues is irritable bowel syndrome. The array of symptoms and a vast range of severity make it a common yet confusing topic.

To clear the air about what irritable bowel syndrome is, the treatment, and precautions, stay tuned.


What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a condition in which you may experience discomfort and pain in the intestines and stomach. This gut disorder affects 11% of the population globally.

IBS should not be confused with inflammatory bowel disease as the two of them hold differences.

Types OF Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Depending on your bowel movement, IBS is categorized into three subtypes. These are-

  • IBS-C (Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation): As the name suggests, you experience gut discomfort along with constipation. The stools are hard and lumpy.
  • IBS-D (Irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea): The stools are loose and watery. Usually reported with excessive diarrhea frequently.
  • IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome with mixed bowel habits): In this condition, the person is likely to experience constipation on some days and diarrhea the other days.

A few other names to address IBS are-

  • Irritable bowel syndrome colitis
  • Mucous colitis
  • Spastic bowel
  • Nervous colon
  • Spastic colon
  • Nervous stomach

Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are many. A person suffering from IBS suffers from several of these. The symptoms are-

  • Bloating
  • Gas( flatulence)
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irregular bowel movement
  • Loose or stools
  • Constipation and diarrhea alternatively
  • Occasional cramps usually in the lower part of the belly.
  • Mucus in feces
  • Food intolerance
  • Urge to poop immediately after you did or not feel completely done even after pooping.
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Frequent urination
  • Belly sticking out
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to digest certain foods followed up by discomfort and cramping.

Causes Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  1. Dysmotility

    It is the problem encountered in the gastrointestinal muscles and how they move the food in the GI tract. It may cause discomfort and IBS.

  2. Vesical Hyperintensity Syndrome

    It is the pain experienced in vesical organs. It might be due to a hypersensitive colon that is affected by mild stimulation. The pain tolerance is lower than normal in this syndrome. It may trigger IBS.

  3. Dysfunction Of The Brain And Gut

    The impairment or lack of coordination between the brain and the nerves may also cause IBS. It might be caused due to chemicals like serotonin and gastrin produced by the body. These control the nerve signals between the brain and the gut.

  4. Muscle Contraction In The Intestine

    The walls of the intestine are muscular to serve the purpose of moving food through the tract. These movements cause contractions. The strong and long-lasting contractions may cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

    The weaker ones increase the time the food remains in the tract, making the passage slow. It leads to the hardening of stools and dries them up.

  5. Stress

    Stress may induce IBS. If the person was prone to traumatic or stressful events in early life, they are likely more prone to IBS. A grown-up with stress will have worse symptoms compared to others. Stress alone will not cause IBS.

  6. Severe Infections

    Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines is also a big cause of IBS. It might also be due to a condition called gastroenteritis. It is explosive diarrhea caused by bacteria or viruses.

  7. Changes In Gut Microbes

    Good bacteria and microbes are essential for healthy digestion. However, changes or fluctuations in bacteria, viruses, and fungi residing in the gut may cause irritable bowel syndrome.

  8. Certain Foods

    Just like stress, food alone may not cause IBS. However, certain food items are okay for some and toxic for others. Food and beverages like milk, wheat, citrus fruits, and carbonated drinks may cause symptoms of IBS.

Signals Of Having Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Sometimes you need to take extra care and contact the medical professional immediately if you see any of the symptoms mentioned below.

  • Rectal Bleeding

    If your irritable bowel syndrome is accompanied by rectal bleeding, it might need immediate attention. It can be due to tearing of the anus due to hard stools. It can also be a sign of bigger problems like hemorrhoids, colon cancer, or fissures.

  • Loss Of Appetite

    If you are eating less than your normal diet or nutritional requirements, this change in food habits should be followed up by medical care.

  • Constant Pain

    If you have sharp pain that does not go away after passing out gas, you should inform the doctor.

  • Fever And Anemia

    Vomiting, fever, nausea, and weakness are not good signs. If you are becoming anemic, you might need medical treatment along with diet control.

  • Weight Loss

    If you are losing a considerable amount of weight without planning or even trying, you should not take it lightly.

Risks Factors Leading To Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • More Common In Females

    If statistics are taken into account, women are more prone to irritable bowel syndrome. This rate is twice as compared to men. It is believed that the menstrual cycle of women is responsible for it.

    The fluctuation in hormones makes them an easy target. Women with IBS experience worse symptoms during periods.

  • Genetic Reason

    Irritable bowel syndrome is believed to be passed on to the bloodline. If someone in your close ones has IBS, you are more likely to have the syndrome than others.

  • Age

    Young people are at higher risk of IBS due to unknown reasons. It might be due to hormonal changes or eating habits but the real cause remains unknown.

    Teenagers and adults up to 40 years have a higher risk of developing this condition.

  • Emotional Instability

    Emotional imbalance can trigger irritable bowel syndrome and vice versa. People with past events of domestic violence, harassment or trauma have more chances to develop IBS than other people.

  • Certain Medications

    Antibiotics and antidepressants may have some side effects. One of these is irritable bowel syndrome. Drugs containing sorbitol may also cause slight discomfort to severe cramps.

  • Food Allergies Or Sensitivities

    Foods like wheat, dairy products, or those with high sugar may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Fructose, carbohydrates, and citric acid may cause IBS. Similarly, consuming alcohol is another red flag.

  • Digestive Disorders Or Infections

    Food poisoning, stomach flu or infections, and traveler’s diarrhea are some digestive problems that may instigate IBS. These change the mechanism of the immune system.

    After an infection, the body may not be able to digest some foods well as it did earlier.

Diagnosis Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS cannot be tested by one method alone. There is no lab test to check for IBS itself but its symptoms can be diagnosed if suspected by the doctor.

  • Blood Test

    It is conducted to check for anemia, thyroid, and celiac disease.

  • Stool Test

    It might be used to check for bacterial infections or if you have blood in the stools. It can also help detect inflammatory bowel syndrome.

  • Test For Allergies And Intolerance

    Gluten allergy, dairy allergy, or lactose intolerance ( inability to digest lactose) can also be tested if certain foods trigger IBS.

  • X-Ray

    Aerophagia, stool retention, and obstruction can be checked by an X-ray. It might be conducted in case of pain. A colon X-ray might also help figure out other problems that have symptoms similar to that of IBS.

  • Colonoscopy Or Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

    In case of abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, a doctor may check for blockage and inflammation in the colon and rectum through these tests.

  • Upper Endoscopy

    In case of acid reflux or heartburn due to indigestion, the problem is detected using upper endoscopy.

Preventive Measures And Home Remedies To Relieve IBS Symptoms

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea and carbonated drinks like soda. Instead, drink more water. Ideally, try to drink up to eight glasses of water a day.
  • Give up bad habits of drinking and smoking.
  • Skip oily, processed, or spicy foods. Consume fiber-rich foods to avoid bloating.
  • Add up some physical activity to your routine. Walking, dancing and aerobic exercise are great for the guy. It will help improve digestion and mood.
  • Eat in small proportions. Reduce your bite size and chew properly.
  • Try stress management techniques like yoga and meditation to reduce stress-induced IBS. You can also turn to your favorite hobby.
  • Maintain a food journal to note what you eat in a day, and what foods in what proportions make you feel good. Also, note the ones that worsen your symptoms.
  • Practice the FODMAP diet. It focuses on reducing the intake of complex carbs that are hard to digest. These can be wheat, beans, and citrus fruits.
  • Reduce peppers, dairy, broccoli, onion, garlic, and cabbage. Prepare the base of your meal plan around eggs, potatoes, cucumber, tomato, and other FODMAP-friendly foods.


Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition causing pain and discomfort in the intestines and stomach. It has a variety of symptoms that might be mild to severe depending on the person.

The treatment of IBS can be simple like avoiding a few foods and changing lifestyle. However, some people require proper tests and medications to treat the symptoms.

To date, there is no particular treatment for irritable bowel syndrome but a mix of a few medications can relieve the symptoms.