Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is an extremely common condition, and chances are that even if you don’t suffer from it, you probably know someone who does. Despite the fact that this condition is so common, most of us don’t know much about it.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a chronic disorder that afflicts the large intestine. This condition causes food to pass too slowly or quickly through the large intestines, resulting in painful and distressing symptoms like abdominal cramping, gas, bloating and diarrhea or constipation. The condition is also referred to as functional bowel syndrome or irritable colon and spastic bowel or colon. Despite the impaired digestive function, there is no permanent damage caused to the large intestine. The symptoms however, can be so severe, so as to alter the quality of your life. The condition can be managed quite effectively at home though, with natural remedies for IBS. The most effective home remedies for IBS typically involve the use of dietary and lifestyle modifications. Diet therapy is in fact the most important aspect of treatment.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Picture

Irritable bowel syndrome is not a disease, but is a condition, and it cannot be passed on to others. It is not contagious or cancerous. The condition is extremely common, with up to 20% of all adults in the United States suffering from it. The condition is not gender specific, but is more likely to develop in women. In most sufferers, the condition usually surfaces before the age of 35.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be rather severe, but they generally vary among different individuals, as IBS affects each person differently. Abdominal discomfort and pain seem to be universal to all sufferers of IBS, but there are plenty of remedies for IBS symptoms that can help cope with them. Some common irritable bowel syndrome symptoms include the following:

  • Abdominal cramping and pain that usually subsides after a bowel movement
  • Alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation
  • Changes in both the consistency and frequency of stools
  • A buildup of abdominal gas and bloating, often accompanied by flatulence
  • The passage of mucus from the rectum is not uncommon
  • You may also notice some amount of abdominal distension

If you have observed these symptoms for a period as long as up to six months, there is a good chance that you may suffer from IBS. These symptoms usually surface after meals, but they are not present throughout. Many patients experience bouts of diarrhea and constipation alternatively, but most will have just one or the other.

The pattern in which the symptoms develop and are present can also vary greatly as some individuals find that the symptoms may worsen and decrease sporadically, over a period of weeks or a month. In others, the symptoms are present most of the time and even begin to worsen with the passage of time. The symptoms are often aggravated by stress, travelling or with changes to your daily routine. The symptoms also seem to increase in women during menstruation.

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown, but there are some theories and we are aware of the triggers that can cause the symptoms to surface. The intestinal walls are lined with muscles that contract and relax rhythmically as they facilitate the passage of food from the stomach to the rectum. In individuals who suffer from IBS these muscle contractions are stronger and last for a longer period, causing food to be passed through rapidly. This impairs digestion and results in gas, bloating and diarrhea. In some individuals however, the opposite is true. With slower contractions, there is a slowdown in food passage, which results in hardening and drying of stools.

IBS could develop because of problems or abnormalities in the intestinal muscles, making them more sensitive to movement or stretching. There are no structural abnormalities in the intestine however. In some cases, individuals who have never experienced any serious digestive disorders may find themselves afflicted with IBS after a bout of intestinal infection. This is referred to as post-infectious IBS.

There are many possible triggers that can cause IBS symptoms to surface. Certain foods like dairy and milk products, alcohol, chocolates, carbonated beverages and some vegetables may cause the symptoms to surface, but you need to actually monitor your diet to find out just which food affects you. Stress is another influencing factor that can cause the symptoms to worsen significantly. Stress does not actually cause the symptoms, but it will worsen them. Hormonal changes are also believed to contribute to the symptoms, which is probably why women tend to experience stronger symptoms during menstruation.

Remedies for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Home remedies for irritable bowel syndrome are quite popular because of the chronic nature of the condition. Most people today are cautious about the use of pharmaceutical products and medications on a regular basis, and tend to seek natural alternatives for common ailments and chronic conditions. Irritable bowel syndrome natural remedies are not meant to be a substitute for conventional treatment however. Make sure that you visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and medical attention. Home remedies can help control the condition however, and reduce your reliance on drugs and also minimize the side effects of various medications. No matter how promising an IBS remedy may appear, there are no miracle cures for IBS. Diet and lifestyle changes need to be of a permanent nature.

Some popular remedies and alternative treatments for irritable bowel syndrome include the following:

  • Herbal remedies are quite popular for various ailments and peppermint may offer some benefits for IBS patients. Peppermint has antispasmodic properties that could help to relax the intestinal muscles, but most studies so far have been inconclusive. Before you try using peppermint however, make sure you consult your doctor because of possible drug interactions. Keep in mind that peppermint can also cause heartburn.
  • Acupuncture is another alternative therapy that has gained ground in recent decades. Acupuncture is believed to help relax the muscles, thereby improving bowel function. Investigations into the effects of acupuncture on IBS are so far inconclusive.

Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

There is no specific diet for irritable bowel syndrome, but dietary changes can help significantly. There is no universal IBS diet, because the influence of different foods varies from one individual to the other. There are some broad based guidelines that could help however.

  • Foods and beverages that stimulate the intestines could worsen your condition, so it may be advisable to avoid consuming colas, caffeine and tea.
  • Foods like wheat, barley, rye, dairy products, and chocolates are often found to trigger IBS, so you should be cautious.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflowers and cabbage, and pulses can pose a problem for individuals who suffer from bloating and gas.
  • It is advisable to avoid consumption of alcohol.
  • Increase your intake of dietary fiber, by consuming fiber rich fruits. Avoid fiber supplements unless prescribed to you by your doctor.
  • Apart from the foods you consume, your meal timings and serving size is also important. Try to maintain regular habits and instead of large servings, eat frequent but small meals.
  • Avoid consuming any laxatives for constipation, as this could create a dependency, which will only worsen the problem.

Because of the vast differences in food allergies, triggers and reactions among different individuals, it would be best for you to maintain a food diary. This will help to keep track of what you eat and the symptoms or reactions if any. It will help to establish a pattern, so that you can gradually eliminate foods that trigger symptoms.

Suggestion for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

While dietary modifications should constitute the main approach to self care and treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, there are other lifestyle changes that can also help to reduce the symptoms.

Your levels of physical fitness may not have a direct bearing on IBS, but staying fit and exercising does help improve bowel function. More importantly, exercising will help to reduce stress. Try not to over exercise. You don’t need to join a gym or indulge in a rigorous workout. Simple light exercises like Pilates, yoga or aerobics would suffice. You could even take up some physical activity like walking, cycling or swimming.

Smoking is a bad habit that is detrimental to your health in general and can therefore aggravate the symptoms of IBS. Try to quit smoking and get healthy.

Stress management can help reduce the frequency or severity of IBS episodes considerably. Learn to take a break from work and make time to relax. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help considerably. In this regard, yoga would be particularly beneficial as it offers you a combination of physical exercise, and meditative and breathing exercises.

If you suffer from any pre-existing condition, make it a point to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.


  1. Michael A. Malone, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, Volume 38, Issue 3, September 2011, Pages 433-447, ISSN 0095-4543, 10.1016/j.pop.2011.05.003.
  2. Anna L. Forbes, J.O. Hunter, Irritable bowel syndrome, Medicine, Volume 35, Issue 5, May 2007, Pages 267-271, ISSN 1357-3039, 10.1016/j.mpmed.2007.02.004.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Treatments - more information
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Frequently asked questions
18 Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) remedies suggested by our users
back pain & frequent urinary infection
suggested by tan on Saturday, January 19, 2008

My mother-in-law has backache for years & has frequent urinary infections, the infection recurred 1 month in a row. She dreaded the antibiotic treatment, but doctor can do nothing more than that. The doctor said her infections are due to the thinning of the urinary tract & he could do nothing about it. Now her back pain & infection has been cure for more than 1/2 year, owe to the remedy I prescribe for her: 1. 15 minutes before meal, 1 single serving live yogurt, 25mg zinc, 1,500mg VitC,5g Ca.Lactate, 3+1/2 level tsp MgSO4, B-complex which contains 1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid,& B12,biotin. After meals 1 high potency multivitamins & minerals, 50ug selenium (for breakfast only),cod liver oil ( total amount 12,500VitA,3,000 IU VitD). Now she is totally cure & free from pain ever since!!!

Problems after eating out
suggested by Sharon on Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I read that drinking from a straw can trigger IBS. I had noticed that about the only time I was troubled by this was after eating at a restaurant. I stopped using a straw and my problem stopped! Now I can enjoy eating out!

suggested by [unspecified] on Friday, September 7, 2007

spoonful of aloe vera juice three times a day truly help.

Organ responsible for Normal Bowel Movement
suggested by Rose on Friday, August 24, 2007

Again, check on the healthof your liver. This organ is responsible for waste disposal system of the human body. If the bile it releases if enough to throw away all wastes from the body (with the help of the kidney) then IBs will be cured. Of course, this should be always supplemented by proper (yes, proper) eating, and that's eating vegetables and fruits raw - juicing it would be what is best for the body! God created us to eat plants and its fruits - RAW!

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