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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestines. It is not uncommon. It is not a disease, but a group of symptoms caused by changes in the way your intestines work. The cause of IBS is not known.

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain, discomfort, and cramping

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation or dry, hard stools

  • Mucous stool

  • Bloating

  • Feeling of incomplete bowel movements

It usually results in one of 3 patterns of symptoms:

  • Chronic abdominal pain and constipation (spastic colitis)

  • Recurring episodes of diarrhea, with or without pain

  • Alternating diarrhea and constipation

Home care

No one knows exactly what causes IBD. The goal is to control and relieve symptoms and prevent complications, so you can lead a full and active life. There is no cure for IBD, and no one treatment that fits everyone. But you can do many things to manage your condition.


Your diet did not cause your IBD, but it can affect it. Unfortunately, no one diet works for everyone. You have to experiment. Below are some recommendations. Keep a food log to figure out what you are sensitive to.

  • Eat more slowly. Eat smaller amounts at a time, but more often. Remember, you can always eat more, but cannot eat less once you’ve eaten too much.

  • High-fiber foods are complicated. While they may help relieve constipation, they can make your bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhea worse.

  • Eat less sugar.

  • Try cutting out dairy products. Sometimes this helps.

  • Try cutting out foods that are high in fat and fatty meats.

  • You can control bloating or passing excess gas. Be careful with “gassy” vegetables and fruits like beans, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

  • Be careful with carbonated beverages and fruit juices. They can make your bloating and diarrhea worse.

  • Caffeine, alcohol, and stimulants can make symptoms worse. These include coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate.


Although stress does not cause IBD, it is a factor in flare-ups, and in the way you feel and react to your condition.

  • Look for factors that seem to worsen your symptoms. These include stress and emotions.

  • Counseling can help you handle stress. So can self-help measures like exercise, yoga, and meditation.

  • Depression can be a part of this illness. Your health care provider may prescribe antidepressant medicine. This may help with diarrhea, constipation, and cramping, as well as with symptoms of depression.

  • Smoking doesn't cause IBD, but can make the symptoms worse.


Your health care provider may prescribe medicines. Take them as directed. For acute flare-ups of your illness, your provider may give you prescription medicines.

  • Check with your health care provider before taking any medicines for diarrhea.

  • Avoid anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen.

  • Consider nutritional supplements. This is especially true if your diarrhea is prolonged, or you aren't eating or are losing weight

Follow-up care

Follow up with your health care provider, or as advised, if you don't start to get better over the next 2 to 3 days. If a stool sample was taken, or cultures were done, you will be told if they are positive, or if your treatment needs to be changed. You can call as directed for the results.

If X-rays were taken, you will be told if there is a change in the reading, especially if it affects treatment.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confusion

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Abdominal pain gets worse

  • Constant abdominal pain that moves to the right-lower abdomen

  • You can't keep liquids down because of vomiting

  • Excessive diarrhea

  • Blood (red or black color) or mucus in your stool

  • Feeling very weak or dizzy, fainting, or extreme thirst

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38.0ºC) or higher, or as directed by your health care provider


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