What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

This Article presents irritable bowel syndrome in detail. It highlights the symptoms, causes and diagnostic methods to provide a comprehensive understanding of the disease.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases of the digestive system, affecting an estimated 10-15% of the population worldwide. It is a functional bowel disease, meaning that no structural or biochemical abnormalities can be identified that would explain the symptoms.

Instead, the diagnosis is usually made by ruling out other diseases and assessing symptoms.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary from person to person, but usually include

  • Stomach pain
  • Flatulence
  • Diarrhea and/or
  • Constipation

These symptoms can occur individually or in combination and are often associated with stress or food intake.

Diagnosis is usually made through a thorough medical history, physical examination, and exclusion of other possible causes through tests such as blood tests, stool samples, and imaging if necessary.

It is important to emphasize that irritable bowel syndrome is a “diagnosis of exclusion.” This means that doctors usually have to rule out other conditions before making a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. This may also include testing for celiac disease, lactose intolerance and other food intolerances.

Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome is complex and often requires a multidisciplinary approach that may include dietary changes, medications, and psychological support. Since the symptoms are very often stress-related, relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness can also be helpful.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), on the one hand, is characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort, bloating, and bowel movement issues (diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of both). It is reported that up to 78% of individuals with IBS also suffer from SIBO. 

SIBO on the other hand, short for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, occurs when bacteria, which normally do not reside in the small intestine, invade it and cause an overgrowth. This can lead to various uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea. Find more informations for SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) here.

Both SIBO and IBS are caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the gut microbiome. While SIBO represents a disturbance of bacteria in the small intestine, IBS affects the large intestine. The symptoms of both conditions are similar and include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain or cramps, gas, and bloating, with SIBO additionally causing nausea, weakness, heartburn or indigestion, and unintended weight loss.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) | Kolibri