IBS is a common health condition that affects your digestive system, causing problems with your bowel function. While its exact cause is still unknown, there are a few things that could potentially be the underlying cause.
Food passing through your digestive system too fast or too slow
Oversensitive nerves within your gut
Stress and anxiety
A family history of IBS
Defined as an incurable functional gastrointestinal disorder, having IBS effectively means that no structural or tissue problems can be identified within your digestive system.
If you are diagnosed with IBS, you will need to manage your symptoms for the rest of your life. However, there are steps you can take to help reduce them.
Symptoms of IBS
IBS is a chronic condition and it can cause a myriad of different, unpleasant symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms of IBS are:
Stomach pain/cramps that usually worsen after eating or feel better after emptying your bowels
Bloating — particularly after eating certain foods, or triggers
Passing a lot of gas
Passing mucus when trying to empty your bowels
A sudden urge or not being able to stop yourself from emptying your bowels (bowel incontinence)
Some days your symptoms can be worse than others, referred to as a ‘flare-up’ and often triggered by specific foods or drinks.
Some people find that avoiding their triggers reduces their symptoms, but it can take a lot of trial and error before you get to understand what your triggers are.
Types of IBS
Once you are diagnosed with IBS, there are four categories your condition can fit into:
Mixed IBS (you experience both constipation and diarrhoea)
Unclassified IBS (your symptoms vary)
Knowing which type of IBS you have ensures you receive the right kind of treatment for your symptoms. For instance, medications (such as gentle laxatives) for IBS-C are not going to be useful if you have IBS-D.