Illinois Medical Center  •  1001 Main Street - Suite 500A  •  Peoria, Illinois 61606


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic (long-lasting) disorder of the large intestine. The large intestine is also called the colon or bowel. IBS is not a disease. It’s a condition in which the bowel does not always work properly. Although IBS can cause distress and aggravation, it does not damage the bowel and does not lead to life-threatening illness.

IBS is the most common intestinal disorder. It affects twice as many women as men, and usually begins in early adulthood.

Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.

The cause is not fully understood. In patients with IBS, the nerves and muscles in the bowel are extra sensitive. Muscles may contract too much when you eat causing cramping and diarrhea during or shortly after a meal. On the other hand, sometimes an abnormal contraction delays bowel movements leading to craps and constipation.

Some foods may trigger attacks. Emotional stress and depression do not cause IBS, but they can trigger it since muscles in the bowel are controlled by the nervous system.

The most common symptoms include:

  • cramping and pain in the abdomen (may be mild or severe),
  • constipation or diarrhea and
  • a lot of gas.

Other symptoms may include bloating or a feeling of fullness in the rectum.

Symptoms often occur after you have eaten a big meal or when you are under stress. Women may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods. Symptoms may be relieved after having a bowel movement.

Unfortunately, there is no test that definitively diagnoses irritable bowel syndrome. Your healthcare provider will take a medical history and examine your abdomen. He or she may also do a rectal exam, do blood tests and/or conduct tests on bowel movement samples to check for blood or infection.

Depending on the initial findings, your age and family history, your physician may also perform a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, or a barium enema. (See Words to Know for details.)

Your healthcare provider may recommend a milk-free diet to determine if lactose intolerance may be causing your problems. Or he or she may suggest not eating foods with gluten to see if you have celiac disease since those symptoms can mimic those of IBS.

Although a cure for IBS has not been discovered, there are ways to manage it and reduce its impact on your life. These include careful food selection and stress management. Maintaining a food diary can help identify common triggers. Some medications may also provide relief.

Increase fiber intake. However, other patients may find that decreasing it works better. You should also avoid the following:

  • Foods that cause gas (such as cabbage).
  • Fatty foods (such as French fries).
  • Milk products (including cheese and ice cream).
  • Chocolate.
  • Caffeine (found in coffee, some sodas and energy drinks).
  • Alcohol.

Your healthcare provider (or other professional) can help you identify those stressors in your life and how to manage them. Relaxation or biofeedback techniques may help.

Your physician may prescribe:

  • Bulk-forming agents such as bran or methylcellulose.
  • Antispasmodic drugs to slow contractions in the bowel, and to help with diarrhea and pain.
  • Serotonin-related medicines to help with constipation or diarrhea.

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Illinois Gastroenterology Institute

Illinois Medical Center  •  1001 Main Street – Suite 500A  •  Peoria, Illinois 61606  •  Phone: (309) 672-4980  •  Fax: (309) 671-2931

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