What is IBS?

disorder-ibsIrritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a problem that affects mainly the bowel, which is also called the large intestine. The bowel is the part of the digestive system that makes and stores stool. The word syndrome means a group of symptoms. IBS is a syndrome because it can cause several symptoms. For example, IBS causes cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

IBS is not a disease. It’s a functional disorder, which means that the bowel doesn’t work as it should.

With IBS, the nerves and muscles in the bowel are extra-sensitive. For example, the muscles may contract too much when you eat. These contractions can cause cramping and diarrhea during or shortly after a meal. Or the nerves can be overly sensitive to the stretching of the bowel (because of gas, for example). Cramping or pain can result.

IBS can be painful. But it does not damage the bowel or cause any other diseases.

Does Stress Cause IBS?

Emotional stress will not cause a person to develop IBS. But if you already have IBS, stress can trigger symptoms. In fact, the bowel can overreact to all sorts of things, including food, exercise, and hormones

Foods that tend to cause symptoms include milk products, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and fatty foods. In some cases, simply eating a large meal will trigger symptoms.

Women with IBS often have more symptoms during their menstrual periods.

What Are the Symptoms of IBS?

The main symptoms of IBS are:

  • crampy pain in the stomach area (abdomen)
  • painful diarrhea or constipation

Most people have either diarrhea or constipation, but some people have both.

Other symptoms are

  • mucus in the stool
  • swollen or bloated abdomen
  • the feeling that you have not finished a bowel movement