Jefferson University Hospitals

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder that causes cramp-like pain, gassiness, bloating, and changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea and/or constipation. A spastic colon is frequently aligned with IBS, which is a spontaneous and sudden contraction of the muscles in your colon.

The most likely triggers for IBS are diet and emotional stress. Hormones may play a role as IBS is found to be more common in women then it is in men. Genetics may be a factor, too, if there's a family history of IBS. 

Though the exact cause of IBS is difficult to pin down, in most cases it can be successfully managed by making simple lifestyles changes, including:

  • Adopting a high-fiber diet with probiotics
  • Avoiding foods that trigger symptoms
  • Reducing stress by exercising, practicing relaxation, and/or seeing a counselor

If your condition is more severe, Jefferson gastroenterologists (physicians who specialize in the digestive system and its disorders) provide you with a thorough evaluation to ensure don't have a more serious inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Treatment may include changes in diet and medication, such as fiber supplements or occasional laxatives.