Irritable bowel syndrome

What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a common condition affecting men and woman of all ages, perhaps in up to 20% of the population.

Symptoms

People with IBS may have cramping abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation. Symptoms can alternate in the same patient, with periods of both loose bowel motions and constipation.

Many will get painful bloating, and in some women this will get worse before their period. For that reason it is often assumed that IBS is associated with endometriosis, but they are two very different diseases.

Causes and treatment

The exact cause of IBS is unclear – it probably represents the end of a few different pathways. Common triggers include:

  • Diet – gluten is often blamed, but that is only one of a large group of substances called 'FODMAPs'. A dietician can help identify if you are sensitive to these
  • Bacterial changes in the gut – for example, after antibiotics. Probiotics and occasionally specialized antibiotics may be recommended
  • Stress – this is a common cause of flareups, but is often overlooked or put in the 'too hard' basket.
  • Changes in the way nerves around the gut behave – so called 'visceral hypersensitivity'. In some cases medications that alter the way nerves transmit pain may help.

How we can help

If you think you may have IBS and would like to talk to us about how we can help, please feel free to contact us. You can also request an appointment online.

Further reading

Further information

Symptoms

Persistent pelvic pain

If you have pain on and off for more than 6 months we call it 'persistent pelvic pain'. There are a number of conditions that can be involved, and sometimes more than one will be present. In some cases the cause is obvious, such as an ovarian cyst, or a urinary tract infection, but in other women the cause is elusive. Find out more

Painful bowel movements

Painful bowel movements (dyschezia) are extremely common. Causes include constipation, anal fissures and irritable bowel syndrome. If you have severe endometriosis, you may suffer from dyschezia during your period. You may also have extremely painful periods and pain with deep intercourse. Find out more