IBS is a chronic (long-term) condition that affects approximately one in five adults and is more common in women than men. IBS can occur at any age but IBS symptoms often appear in your teens or twenties.
IBS symptoms vary but are most commonly stomach pain and bowel problems, including diarrhoea and/or constipation. You may find that your symptoms sometimes disappear, only to flare-up when you’re stressed or after eating certain foods.
In some cases, IBS symptoms like abdominal pain can be difficult to deal with, especially if they’re severe.
There’s no cure for IBS. However, lifestyle changes, diet and, if required, medication and counselling can help control IBS symptoms.
The common symptoms are:
If you think you have IBS, make an appointment to see your GP. Although there’s no cure for IBS, your GP will be able to recommend IBS treatment to relieve your IBS symptoms.
Your GP will begin by discussing your symptoms with you, including any bowel problems and bowel pain.
There’s no specific test for IBS. Your GP will begin by ruling out conditions with similar symptoms, such as:
After examining your stomach, your GP may arrange:
If required, your GP will refer you to a gastroenterologist, a consultant who specialises in the digestive system.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown although, for some people, there might be a genetic link. You’re also at a higher risk of developing IBS if you’ve had:
Most people with IBS have a sensitive digestive system. As a result of this sensitivity, your bowel reacts to stress, change and/or food by triggering IBS symptoms.
Although there’s no cure for IBS, IBS treatment will help to relieve your symptoms, including bowel problems.
Your GP will be able to suggest dietary changes and IBS foods to avoid or might refer you to a specialist dietitian. You could also try:
Your GP will advise you about medication that might ease your IBS symptoms, whether over-the-counter or on prescription. Medications include:
If stress triggers your IBS symptoms, your GP might refer you to a counsellor for cognitive behavioural therapy. Alternatively, your GP might recommend mindfulness training.