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 most common types are:

  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C)
  • Mixed IBS (IBS-M)

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. Large amounts of even "safe" foods can cause problems for those with IBS.

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