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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Symptoms | Treatment | For More Information

The recurrent stomach pain and altered bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea) of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have no known cause or cure, but there are several theories for its development. The most common triggers of IBS are what you eat and your emotional state - anxiety, depression or emotional distress. Hormonal changes may also play a role. A bad stomach “bug” or infection may set off the condition or worsen existing symptoms.

The signs of IBS and the disease’s impact on quality of life vary from person to person. Since other GI conditions can produce similar abdominal discomfort, discussing your potential irritable bowel syndrome symptoms with your doctor is the first best step toward a diagnosis.

At NorthShore, our GI experts include gastroenterologists, registered dieticians and GI health psychologists who have extensive experience caring for patients with IBS and can provide further evaluation and interventions for this usually manageable but often lifelong condition.

IBS Symptoms

Common signs of IBS include:

  • cramping
  • bloating
  • gas (flatulence)
  • diarrhea
  • constipation

Sometimes symptoms can come and go, vary in intensity and may even disappear for extended periods of time. Typically, the abdominal discomfort of IBS lessens after a bowel movement.

IBS Treatment

Identifying specific factors that aggravate your symptoms helps your physician to develop a personalized IBS treatment plan.

Food intolerances to lactose, fructose or gluten, for example, can prompt the hyper-sensitized “gut” of a patient with IBS to negatively react. Your NorthShore gastroenterologist may recommend dietary changes that involve eliminating food “triggers.”

Reducing foods that cause gas in your digestive tract such as:

  • carbonated beverages
  • caffeine
  • fried foods
  • certain vegetables and fruits

Some patients may find they need to limit or avoid dairy or milk products if they are lactose intolerant or sensitive.

Your emotional well-being has much to do with controlling, as well as coping with IBS. Stress goes both ways with IBS: it can set off episodes of the condition or result from the anxiety of dealing with the disorder. Your physician may recommend behavioral techniques to help you avoid symptoms and better manage them through relaxation or distraction. Learning new ways of coping with irritablbe bowel syndrome symptoms allows you to be in control of how you live your life with IBS.

There is no standard IBS treatment plan. What works for one patient, may not work well for another. In addition to dietary changes and stress reduction, your physician may recommend a variety of medications to help regulate your bowel habits and reduce abdominal pain.

For More Information

For more information on IBS, or to schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, please call 847.657.1900. To see a psychologist who specializes in working with patients with IBS and other GI conditions, please call 847.425.6400.