Irritable bowel syndrome – causes, symptoms and complications

Irritable bowel syndrome

IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a common disorder which is affecting the large intestine. Signs and symptoms of this condition are including gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping and constipation or diarrhea or both. This is a chronic condition which you will need to manage for a long time. There are small numbers of cases when people are affected with the irritable bowel syndrome and they have severe signs and symptoms. There are some people who can control their symptoms by managing diet, stress and lifestyle. But the more – severe symptoms can be treated with counseling and medications. When someone has irritable bowel syndrome, then it is not causing changes in his or her bowel tissue and it does not increase his or her risk of colorectal cancer.

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms

The signs and symptoms of inflammatory bowel syndrome vary and the most common signs and symptoms are given below [1,2]:

  • Mucus in the stool
  • Diarrhea or constipation – sometimes alternating bounds of diarrhea and constipation
  • Excess gas
  • Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating that it typically relieved or partially relieved by passing a bowel movement [2]

There are many people who suffer from this condition and they experience periods when their signs and symptoms improve or even disappear completely and times when their signs and symptoms are worse.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome causes

The exact cause for irritable bowel syndrome is not known. Here are some factors which play a role in it:

  • Changes in the bacteria in the gut (microflora): We know that microflora is good bacteria which reside in the intestines and they play an important role in the health. There are some studies in which is found that microflora in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome may differ from the microflora in healthy people [3].
  • Severe infection: The irritable bowel syndrome can develop after a severe bout of diarrhea (gastroenteritis) which is caused by a virus or bacteria. Also this condition can be associated with a surplus of bacteria in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth) [4].
  • Inflammation in the intestines: There are some people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and they have an increased number of immune – system cells in the intestines. This immune – system response is associated with diarrhea and pain. [5]
  • Nervous system: Abnormalities in the digestive system and nerves can cause to experience greater than normal discomfort when the abdomen stretches from stool or gas. These poorly coordinated signals between your brain and your intestines can cause your body to overreact to changes which normally happen in the digestive process, which is resulting in constipation, diarrhea or pain. [6]
  • Muscle contractions in the intestines: The walls of our intestines are lined with layers of muscle which contract as they move food through the digestive tract. Those contractions that are stronger and which last longer than normal can cause diarrhea, bloating and gas. The weak intestinal contractions can slow the food passage and this could lead to hard and dry stools. [7]

Risk factors: There are some studies in which are said that many people who have occasional signs and symptoms of the irritable bowel syndrome. But it is more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome if you:

  • Have a mental health problem: It is known fact that there are some mental health problems that are associated with the irritable bowel syndrome such as depression, anxiety and others. [8]
  • Have a family history of irritable bowel syndrome: Genes can play role in this condition. Also the family’s environment can play a role in it as well as a combination of genes and environment. [9]
  • Are female: There are some studies which are done in the United States of America and there is shown that irritable bowel syndrome is more common in women. Also the estrogen therapy after or before menopause is increasing the risk of irritable bowel syndrome. [10]
  • Are young: This condition happens more frequently in people who are under the age 50.

Complications: When you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of IBS, then it can lead to anxiety or depression [8]. Also people who have moderate to severe IBS have reported poor quality of their lives.


[1] Vahedi H, Ansari R, Mir-Nasseri MM, Jafari E. Irritable bowel syndrome: A review article. Middle East Journal of Digestive Diseases. 2010;2(2):66–77.

[2] American College of Gastroenterology. Irritable bowel syndrome. Retrieved from

[3] Menees C, Chey W. The gut microbiome and irritable bowel syndrome. F1000 Research. 2018;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-1029.

[4] Kanazawa M, Fukudo S. Relationship between infectious gastroenteritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Clinical Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014;7:14–8

[5] Sinagra E, Pompei G, Tomasello G, et al. Inflammation in irritable bowel syndrome: Myth or new treatment target? World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2016;22(7):2242–55.

[6] Wood JD. Neuropathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2002;35(1 Suppl):S11-22.

[7] Bordoni B, Morabito B. Symptomatology correlations between the diaphragm and irritable bowel syndrome. Cureus. 2018;10(7):e3036.

[8] Banerjee A, Sarkhel S, Sarkar R, Dhali GK. Anxiety and depression in irritable bowel syndrome. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. 2017;39(6):741–5.

[9] Saito YA, Petersen GM, Larson JJ, et al. Familial aggregation of irritable bowel syndrome: A family case–control study. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2010;105(4):833–41.

[10] Kim YS, Kim N. Sex-gender differences in irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. 2018;24(4):544-55.


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