Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Types, Symptoms, Treatment


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine, characterized by a group of symptoms. These symptoms include cramping, repeated abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Despite the symptoms it will cause, irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t damage the intestine.

In the United States, about 12 percent of people are suffering from IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome affects about twice as many women as men. Moreover, people in their late teens to 45 are most likely to have IBS.

IBS is not a life-threatening condition but a chronic one which needs long-term management.


Based on different patterns of changes in your bowel movements or abnormal bowel movements, IBS can be divided into three types:

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M)


People with IBS may have various symptoms, but the most common signs include:

  • abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that is typically relieved or partially relieved by passing a bowel movement
  • excess gas
  • diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation
  • mucus in the stool


The exact cause of IBS hasn’t been identified yet. Possible factors that contribute to it involve:

  • muscle contraction in the intestine
  • nervous system
  • inflammation in the intestines
  • severe infection
  • changes in bacteria in the gut


Some factors may trigger the symptoms of IBS, including:

  • food

Although IBS rarely results from food allergy, many people will have worse symptoms if they eat or drink certain foods or beverages, such as wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk and carbonated drinks.

  • stress

Feeling stressful can aggravate the condition, making symptoms worse or more frequent.

  • hormones

Women with IBS find that their symptoms are often worse during or around their menstrual periods.


Since there is no test for diagnosing IBS, your doctor will first rule out other conditions with a complete medical history, physical exam and tests. If you have IBS with diarrhea, a test for gluten may be needed.

After that, one of the following sets of diagnostic criteria for IBS may be used:

  • Rome criteria
  • Manning criteria
  • Types of IBS

Furthermore, you will likely need additional tests if you have other symptoms that might suggest more serious condition. These symptoms involve:

  • Onset of signs and symptoms after age 50
  • Weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever
  • Nausea or recurrent vomiting
  • Abdominal pain, especially if it’s not completely relieved by a bowel movement, or occurs at night
  • Diarrhea that is persistent or awakens you from sleep
  • Anemia related to low iron

Additional tests

Your doctor may recommend imaging tests and laboratory tests.

Imaging tests may be used include:

  • flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • colonoscopy
  • x-ray or CT scan

Laboratory tests include:

  • lactose intolerance tests
  • breath test for bacterial overgrowth
  • upper endoscopy
  • stool tests


Changes in diet and lifestyles

If your condition is not severe, you can well control the symptoms by making changes in your diet and lifestyles. Try to:

  • eat more fiber
  • avoid gluten
  • follow a special eating plan called the low FODMAP diet
  • increase your physical activity
  • reduce stressful life situations
  • get enough sleep


Your doctor may recommend medicine based on the type of your IBS

For IBS with diarrhea:

For IBS with constipation

Besides, other medicines may be used include:

Mental health therapies

Mental health therapies are also helpful to improve your IBS symptoms. These therapies include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • gut-directed hypnotherapy
  • relaxation training

Keywords: irritable bowel syndrome; IBS.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.