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Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What Is It?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What Is It?

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Liv Hospital Ulus
Prof. MD. Binnur Şimşek
Gastroenterology
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14 February 2023
Article Content
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome Types
  • Symptoms and Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment Methods
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as restless bowel syndrome, is a chronic health condition where the digestive system fails to function properly as it should. It affects approximately 11% of the global population and presents itself with symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.


    In irritable bowel syndrome, the problem lies in the function of the intestines rather than their structure. Therefore, diagnosing the disease can be challenging. So, what is irritable bowel syndrome? When the communication between the brain and the intestines is disrupted for any reason, the intestines cannot function properly. This can lead to a functional disorder in the digestive system. Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic functional disorder of the digestive system that affects many people worldwide.

    The answers to questions such as "What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?" and "What causes irritable bowel syndrome and how can it be treated?" will be discussed in detail in the following sections of the article.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome Types

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by changes in bowel movements such as diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. The disease is classified into different categories based on the type of change in bowel movements. According to experts, the main types of irritable bowel syndrome are as follows:

    • IBS with more frequent constipation,
    • IBS with more frequent diarrhea,
    • IBS with both diarrhea and constipation occurring within the same day,
    • Unspecified IBS.

    Symptoms and Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common functional digestive system disorders worldwide. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, such as abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements, vary from person to person.

    So, what causes irritable bowel syndrome? Although the first diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome was made in the 1970s, precise information about its causes is still not fully understood. However, the main causes of irritable bowel syndrome can be listed as follows:

    • The majority of experts argue that biopsychosocial factors, including psychological, behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental factors, may play a role in the development of irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Among the main causes of irritable bowel syndrome is the disruption of communication between the intestinal muscles and nerves, resulting in dysfunction during bowel movements.
    • It can occur following severe diarrhea caused by bacterial or viral infections.
    • Imbalance in the beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut flora can lead to the development of irritable bowel syndrome.

    Additionally, there are some identified risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome, including:

    • Gender: Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder affecting people of all genders and ages, but studies suggest that it is approximately 1.5 to 3 times more common in women compared to men. This suggests that hormones may play a role in triggering the symptoms of the disease.
    • Age: Irritable bowel syndrome can occur at any age, but the majority of patients experience it for the first time before the age of 35.
    • Genetic predisposition: Research indicates that the risk of developing this disease may be approximately 2 times higher in individuals with a family history of IBS.

    Irritable bowel syndrome is a health problem characterized by irregularities in bowel movements. The main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be listed as follows:

    • Abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating,
    • Diarrhea and/or constipation,
    • Nausea, vomiting,
    • Changes in bowel movements and appearance of stool,
    • Relief of abdominal pain after bowel movements.

    How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?

    Since irritable bowel syndrome is not associated with the structure of the digestive system, diagnosing the disease may take some time. Therefore, patients presenting with complaints such as diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain are initially evaluated for structural diseases.

    In cases where there is no structural problem in the intestines, experts consider irritable bowel syndrome. At this stage, the patient is asked some questions such as when the symptoms started, how long they have been going on, and how often the symptoms occur. In the diagnostic stage, it is important to determine when the abdominal pain started and how often it recurs.

    During the diagnosis of the disease, experts ask patients some questions. The presence of abdominal pain lasting for more than six months and occurring at least once a week in the past three months is an important criterion for diagnosis. Additionally, the presence of at least two of the following three symptoms in the patient can also lead experts to consider the presence of IBS. These symptoms are as follows:

    • Pain during defecation,
    • Changes in defecation frequency,
    • Changes in stool consistency (solid or loose).

    In addition to the above, the absence of any symptoms that may suggest colorectal (colon-rectum) cancer risk or bleeding in the digestive system, as well as the absence of other health problems such as unexplained weight loss, is important in the diagnosis of IBS.

    In patients without any symptoms that may indicate a more serious problem, a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome can be made without the need for additional tests if at least two of the above symptoms are present.

    In some cases, the expert doctor may also use colonoscopy, a method that allows detailed imaging of the intestines using a thin tube, to confirm that there is no serious health problem. In addition, radiological imaging methods such as computerized tomography (CT) can also help exclude serious illnesses by obtaining detailed images of the abdominal region.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment Methods

    Irritable bowel syndrome negatively affects individuals' quality of life. So, how can irritable bowel syndrome be treated? Since irritable bowel syndrome is not a structural problem of the intestine, there is no proven definitive treatment method in treatment. Experts primarily develop a treatment plan aimed at relieving symptoms.

    In the treatment of IBS, it is important for patients to make changes in their diet and lifestyle habits. In patients with mild symptoms, dietary and lifestyle changes can often help solve the problem. However, in patients with severe symptoms, antidepressant medications or probiotics that help regulate bowel movements may be used in some cases. However, like other treatment methods, these medications are aimed at relieving symptoms rather than curing the disease definitively.

    Here are some suggestions that may help alleviate symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome:

    • Being diligent about regular exercise,
    • Avoiding habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption,
    • Following the irritable bowel syndrome diet list recommended by the expert doctor and tailored to the individual,
    • Reducing portion sizes and increasing the frequency of meals,
    • Engaging in hobbies that can help reduce stress,
    • Taking notes of consumed foods and beverages to understand which ones trigger IBS symptoms.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Irritable bowel syndrome is a common health problem affecting people of all ages worldwide. Below are some frequently asked questions about irritable bowel syndrome.

    Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome a Chronic Disease?

    There is no definitive cure for irritable bowel syndrome. Although symptoms may occasionally alleviate, triggers such as consuming fatty, sugary foods can exacerbate symptoms. Therefore, irritable bowel syndrome can be considered a chronic disease.

    How Should the Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Be?

    Making changes in dietary habits can help alleviate symptoms for patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors may offer dietary recommendations to patients based on their symptoms. The irritable bowel syndrome diet typically emphasizes fiber-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, which may help regulate bowel movements. Additionally, probiotic foods like yogurt and pickles can be used as supportive options.

    Some patients diagnosed with IBS may also have lactose intolerance. Therefore, in some cases, lactose intolerance tests may be performed. It is important for these patients to avoid consuming dairy products or to opt for lactose-free products. Additionally, consuming an adequate amount of water throughout the day may help alleviate symptoms for IBS patients.

    Irritable bowel syndrome is a disruptive health issue that affects the quality of life of patients. Adhering to a treatment plan prepared by a specialist doctor may help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. If you are experiencing problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea, do not hesitate to make an appointment with a specialist doctor for check-ups. At Liv Hospital, diagnosis and treatment of digestive system diseases are conducted by specialist physicians.

    * Liv Hospital Editorial Board has contributed to the publication of this content .
    * Contents of this page is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The content of this page does not include information on medicinal health care at Liv Hospital .
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