Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Signs & Symptoms   |    Causes   |    Treatment   |    Questions to Ask   |    Self-Care/Prevention

Image of women sitting holding stomach in pain.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a problem that mostly affects the bowel (the large intestine) and is not caused by any other bowel disease. It can be painful, does not damage the colon or lead to other health problems.

Signs & Symptoms

•  Gas, bloating, pain, or discomfort in the abdomen.

•  Chronic diarrhea, constipation (or both).

•  Mucus in the stool.


The cause is not known. A person with IBS has an extra sensitive colon. Muscles in the intestines go into spasm, causing symptoms.


Changes in eating habits, stress relief, and medications treat IBS.


Questions to Ask

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

Self-Care / Prevention

•  Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit. Avoid secondhand smoke.

•  Keep a log of when symptoms occur. Avoid things that trigger symptoms. Common ones are having: Large meals; fried foods; kidney and other beans; cabbage; broccoli; dairy products with milk sugar (lactose); chocolate; spicy foods; and the artificial sweetener sorbitol.

•  Manage stress.

•  Eat foods with dietary fiber (whole-grain breads and cereals and fruits and vegetables). Kidney beans and other beans are a good source if they do not cause IBS symptoms for you. Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter fiber pills or powders that you mix with water. {Note: Add all types of fiber slowly. Too much, too soon, can worsen symptoms.}

•  Drink lots of water. Don’t have alcohol and caffeine.

•  Get enough rest. Get regular exercise.

•  Take an over-the-counter pain reliever as directed. Put a hot water bottle or heating pad (set on low) on your abdomen. Try to relax.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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