Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Types, Symptoms, and Management

IBS can seriously impact your day-to-day life. Luckily, there are several treatment options that can help you manage your symptoms.


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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be characterized by chronic constipation (IBS-C), chronic diarrhea (IBS-D), or a combination of the two. 


However, no matter the type of IBS, it can profoundly impact your life. This guide reviews what IBS is, the effects it can have on your body and health, and some strategies to manage it.

What is IBS?

IBS is characterized by chronic digestive problems. Usually, a person with IBS suffers from either constipation or diarrhea, but some people with IBS may have both at different times.


IBS can be difficult to diagnose and is often diagnosed based purely on symptoms. It’s not yet clear what causes IBS, but it’s thought that it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. IBS may be caused by changes in the balance of bacteria in the gut, inflammation, nervous system abnormalities, or abnormal intestinal muscle contractions.


Certain foods, stress, and hormonal changes also seem to trigger IBS symptoms in many people.


IBS is a completely different condition than inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), although they are often confused because of the similar terminology. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two types of IBD, and they are typically much more severe than IBS. IBD, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis are characterized by chronic inflammation that harms the gut, and they often require surgery to help patients find relief.

Side effects and complications

Along with constipation, diarrhea, or both, IBS can be accompanied by other symptoms, including:


  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite


Additionally, chronic IBS may contribute to or cause the development of other problems, like rectal bleeding, vomiting, persistent abdominal pain, and anemia, which can be signs of colon cancer. The pain and discomfort of IBS can also increase your stress levels.

IBS management

Luckily, there are many options that may help you manage your IBS and minimize your symptoms, whether you have IBS-C, IBS-D, or a combination.


These strategies include:


    • Medication. Certain prescription medications may help you manage your IBS, including antidepressants and antispasmodics, which help relax the intestinal muscles.
    • Diet changes. A diet that’s low in fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides as well as polyols (FODMAPs) may help with IBS. It can be a difficult process to identify FODMAPs in the diet, so you may want to consult a registered dietitian who specializes in low-FODMAP diets for help.


  • Exercise. Regular exercise may also help with IBS management, especially for people with IBS-C.
  • Stress management. Stress is a common trigger for IBS symptoms, so you should take steps to manage your stress effectively.
  • Supplements. Certain supplements may help with IBS management. Probiotics can help repopulate the large intestine with healthy and beneficial gut bacteria, while soluble fiber may help soften and add bulk to stools in IBS-C. Additionally, many people with IBS have low vitamin D levels, so vitamin D supplementation may help.



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