Irritable Bowel Syndrome: IBS, Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Natural Treatments

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) awareness month. 

IBS Awareness Month was established by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal in 1997. Its goal is to make people aware of this disease and cure it ahead of time.

Many people are unaware that their symptoms point to a medically recognized problem, so we published a complete article on "Irritable Bowel Syndrome," and how to mange this condition naturally.

Incidence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a chronic, often debilitating, functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits that affects your gastrointestinal tract and intestines.

Irritable bowel syndrome is also referenced as mucous colitis, spastic colon, and spastic colitis.

People who have IBS have intestines that do not contract properly. It may squeeze too hard or may not squeeze hard enough when trying to eliminate waste from the body.

Patients often experience a reduced quality of life.

  • About 60% of them also complain of weakness and fatigue.
  • IBS affects 10 - 20% of the world population
  • 1 - 2% of new cases occurring each year and is often identified in early adulthood.

Women are more susceptible to irritable bowel syndrome than men. 

What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?


The symptoms of IBS can be confused with other gastrointestinal disorders.

The major symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Pain in the lower abdomen 
  • Bloating 
  • Cramping 
  • Change in stool frequency  
  • Alternation between periods of diarrhea and constipation
  • Excessive flatulence 
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • The sensation of incomplete emptying of the bowels
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood or mucus in the stool 

If symptoms worsen following the ingestion of certain foods, diagnostic tests are indicated to rule out food allergies or malabsorption.


  • Blood tests for celiac disease: Celiac disease is the result of a gluten allergy and can present with symptoms similar to IBS.
  • Colonoscopy: allows examining the entire colon by introducing a flexible instrument with a built-in camera and with a thin channel through which the biopsy forceps pass to perform small samples of mucosa (biopsies) or to remove polyps.
  • Computed tomography: (CT) reproduces images of the internal organs at the level of the abdomen and pelvis.
  • Lactose breath test: check if lactase is present, which is the enzyme necessary to digest sugars (lactose) present in dairy products. If the enzyme is absent, ingestion of dairy products can cause typical symptoms of IBS, and eliminating foods containing lactose can solve the problem.

What are the risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome?


There are no proven risk factors for the disorder.

However, some triggers can trigger or worsen irritable bowel syndrome. Among them are:

  • Diet: Some patients report that the signs and symptoms of IBS worsen when certain food or drinks are consumed. Among them are wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk, and soft drinks.
  • Family history: genetic influence is believed to play a role in triggering IBS.
  • Hormones: Women are twice as likely to have IBS as men. There is an increase in reports of IBS in pre-or post-menopausal women who are undergoing estrogen therapy.
  • Intolerance or allergies: the role of food allergy or intolerance in triggering irritable bowel syndrome is not yet understood. People with these conditions also report having frequent abdominal discomfort from IBS.
  • Mental health: There is a link between emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, and the onset of IBS or the worsening of symptoms.
  • Poor quality of life: eating habits can influence the worsening of IBS. Among them, the following stand out: the consumption of fried, fatty, or spicy foods, low fiber, the lack of adequate nutrients in everyday life, and not drinking enough water. 

    What are the causes of irritable bowel syndrome?


    IBS is a chronic disease that affects the digestive system. The root cause is unknown but your lifestyle and food choices play a significant role in the development of IBS.

    Other causes of IBS may include:  

    • Antibiotics: Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, which may result in an overgrowth of yeast invading the intestinal lining, causing micropunctures and absorption of yeast toxins into the bloodstream.
    • Changes in the digestive nervous system: There is a very close connection between the brain and the gut. In this sense, poorly coordinated signals between the two organs can cause the body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process. This abnormality can cause pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
    • Changes in the intestinal microbiota: The balance of microorganisms that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract has the function of maintaining the integrity of the mucosa that covers the entirety of it. Overgrowth of bacteria in the gut is related to IBS.
    • Eating at the wrong time: Our biological clock works according to circadian rhythm, which decides the best time to eat, digest food, and time to sleep. Eating at a time that doesn’t align with your biological clock may lead to IBS or other chronic diseases.
    • Inflammation in the gut: Some people diagnosed with IBS have an increased number of immune system cells in their intestines, which may be associated with episodes of pain, flatulence, and nervous diarrhea.
    • Medications:  Select antidepressants, antihistamines, antacids, diuretics, hypertension, and/or mineral supplements with excessive amounts of iron or magnesium may trigger IBS.
    • Muscle contractions in the intestine: The walls of the intestine have layers of muscle that contract as food moves through the digestive tract. Stronger or prolonged contractions can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Weak intestinal contractions slow the passage of food, which causes hard, dry stool.
    • Severe infection: External factors can also trigger the syndrome, such as a severe flare-up of gastroenteritis.
    • Poor quality of sleep: Clinical research shows that we need 7 - 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to properly repair and reboot your body systems. Getting the right amount of sleep nightly helps build immunity, boost energy and metabolism, decrease blood pressure, manage blood sugar, repairs muscle, decrease inflammation, and reduce stress.

      What foods and products should I avoid with IBS?


      • Alcoholic beverages
      • Artificial ingredients
      • Baked goods made with white flour
      • Bananas
      • Cigarettes, smoking and tobacco
      • Citrus fruit
      • Cocoa, chocolate
      • Coffee, caffeinated and carbonated beverages
      • Corn
      • Dairy products, including ice cream and frozen yogurt
      • Fatty foods
      • Foods that increase bloating and gas production, such as bagels, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, beans, legumes, lentils
      • Foods containing gluten: barley, rye, wheat
      • Fructose, sweets, refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sorbitol and xylitol
      • Grapes
      • MSG
      • Mercury, shellfish
      • Nightshade vegetables: aubergine, eggplants, green peppers, potatoes, tomatoes
      • Nuts and seeds
      • Packaged, factory and processed food, salad dressings and condiments
      • Red meat, poultry skin, untrimmed meat
      • Spices: chili pepper, chili powder, cloves, curry powder, garlic, mustard seed, nutmeg
      • Tofu

      How is irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed?

      Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat digestive disorders like IBS.

      There is no specific test to confirm the syndrome, but one generally go through a number of tests before diagnosing irritable bowel syndrome.  

      Diagnosis is based on specific clinical criteria–called the Rome criteria which are used when a person has had abdominal pain at least once a week for the past three months, along with one or more of the following symptoms:

      1. Pain related to defecation.
      2. Pain associated with constipation or diarrhea.
      3. Pain related to eating some food.

        What are some natural remedies to help manage IBS?


        1. Create a food diary. Listen to your body and make a list of the food and beverages that you consume. If you experience any GI discomfort, describe how it make you feel, type of bowel movement, stressors, etc to help determine your triggers.
        2. Nourish your gut flora daily with quality probiotics.
        3. Adopt a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
        4. Elimination diet. Track your meals and how you feel. Once you discover the foods that appear to worsen your digestive system, stop consuming them.
        5. Portion control. Take time and enjoy your food by eating slowly and avoid overeating. If you’re physically active for 30 minutes or more you may need to increase your consumption slightly.
        6. Drink calming, herbal tea after each meal.
        7. Drink 2 - 3 liters of filtered water daily.
        8. Exercise 20-30 minutes daily.
        9. Protect your energy. Create mindful activities and healthy boundaries. Eliminate anything that does not bring peace and joy to your life. #ByeFelicia

        What are some alternative treatments to IBS?


        • Accupressure 
        • Acupuncture 
        • Aromatheraphy 
        • Breathing exercises
        • Calming herbs: anise, chamomile, fennel, ginger, peppermint 
        • Coconut milk 
        • Green smoothie loaded with leafy greens 
        • Herbs: Angelica root, artichoke leaf, bitter orange peel, caraway, dandelion, glutamine, oregano, psyllium
        • Massage therapy
        • Mind body therapy: hypnotherapy, meditation, praying, sound therapy, visualization 
        • Movement therapy: brisk walking, Pilates, reflexology, swimming, tai chi, yoga 
        • Prebiotics, probiotics, research-grade probiotic supplements

        How do you prevent irritable bowel syndrome? 


        There is no right measure to prevent the development of irritable bowel syndrome since we don’t know what causes IBS.

        We do, however, know that food influences bowel functioning. Therefore,  you may reduce IBS flare-ups by:

        1. Eat every three hours.
        2. Eat foods that are relatively easy to digest.
        3. Chew your food well.
        4. Consume fruits, leafy green vegetables, white meat, and yogurt.
        5. Consume the right amount of fiber consumption, not too much or too little.
        6. Increase your water intake.
        7. Reduce air swallowing activities, such as, chewing gum, drinking through straw or sucking hard candy.
        8. Reduce stress.
        9. Exercise regularly.
        10. Sleep 7 - 9 hours nightly.

        Is irritable bowel syndrome curable?

        There is no known cure for IBS. Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome is geared at managing the symptoms, which requires changing your nutrition and lifestyle.

        Pharmacological treatment for irritable bowel syndrome involves the use of antispasmodic and antidepressant drugs, but, as previously mentioned, it must be calibrated based on the symptoms.

        For example, "if the person is predominantly suffering from diarrhea, drugs that reduce bowel motility will be indicated." 

        Never take medication on your own, even if it has been recommended by someone with a condition that you think is similar to yours.

        Our food should be our medicine, and our medicine should be our food.  - Hippocrates