Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that includes a group of unpleasant symptoms that may occur often but do not cause damage to the intestines.

The three types of IBS are grouped by the main bowel problem experienced:

  • IBS-D (diarrhea)
  • IBS-C (constipation)
  • IBS-M (mixed), also called IBS-A (alternating) – alternating diarrhea and constipation

Symptoms usually include abdominal pain, bloating, or cramping, plus:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Alternating diarrhea and constipation

Even though the symptoms do not cause damage to the intestines, they can cause a lot of pain, stress, and anxiety. Some people may experience a fear of eating, or avoidance of food in certain situations, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Too much diarrhea can cause dehydration, and IBS can also interfere with a person’s ability to work, travel, and socialize.

Manage your IBS by:

  • Keeping a log of your diet and symptoms to help identify foods that cause problems.
  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and foods high in fat and sugar.
  • Making an effort to decrease stress in your life and learning how to better cope with stress you cannot avoid.
  • Increasing physical activity in ways that are comfortable for you. This can also help relieve stress.
  • Avoiding overeating. Even “safe” foods can cause problems for those with IBS when consumed in large amounts.

For more specific ideas, see Managing IBS with Diet and Lifestyle.

Did You Know?

If you are having trouble managing your diet and stress with irritable bowel syndrome, it may help to see a Registered Dietitian (RD). Registered Dietitians can help you identify foods you tolerate and create an eating plan to improve your health and nutrition. Ask your doctor or visit to find an RD near you.

Think you may have IBS? Talk to you doctor about your symptoms and consider seeing a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and treatment options.