Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is quite a common condition in which the function of the gastrointestinal tract has been impaired without any associated structural change.

Little is known about the cause however there is ongoing research in place to determine this.  It can be triggered by certain substances such as high calorie or fat diets as well as emotional factors eg stress, anxiety, depression or fear.


Symptoms commonly associated with this condition include:

  • 1. Altered bowel habit: This may present as either constipation or diarrhea
  • 2. Abdominal pains
  • 3. Nausea
  • 4. Vomiting
  • 5. Frequent urination
  • 6. Sexual dysfunction such as pain during intercourse or poor libido
  • 7. Abdominal bloating

IBS Diagnosis is usually made following a doctor’s evaluation based on the Rome criteria when laboratory and imaging studies have ruled out other disorders.


Treatment comprises mainly of providing psychological support in combination with dietary changes. These dietary measures include the following:

  • 1. Dietary supplementation with fibre to provide relief for both diarrhea and constipation
  • 2. Frequent water intake for patients with predominantly constipation
  • 3. Avoid caffeine as this reduces anxiety and in turn, minimizes the chances of a triggered episode
  • 4. Avoid legumes
  • 5. Use of probiotics
  • 6. Restrict lactose and fructose intake

Psychological supports such as cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy and psychotherapy have shown to effectively manage the symptoms of IBS. Certain drugs have also been shown to provide symptomatic relief.

They include the following:

  • 1. Antidiarrheals eg loperamide
  • 2. Prokinetic agents
  • 3. Bulk-forming laxatives eg lubiprostone
  • 4. Tricyclic antidepressants eg nortriptyline
  • 5. Antibiotics eg rifaximin
  • 6. Anticholinergics eg hyoscyamine

In conclusion, Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder whose symptoms can be quite vague thus requiring a visit to the doctor for proper workup and exclusion of other conditions. Its symptoms can be managed if adequate measures are taken.

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