Definition and symptoms of the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The disease usually manifests itself with discomfort, swelling or abdominal pain.


The Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects about 5-25% of the population, women more than men, with a higher occurrence amongst those aged between 20 and 50.

The main symptoms of the IBS are discomfort, swelling or abdominal pain. All these symptoms are strictly related to an alteration of the frequency and the consistence of the faeces (constipation and diarrhoea).

The causes of the IBS are not known and the physiopathology is not always so clear.

The syndrome has floating traits because it can increase due to physical or psychological stressful events (surgery and general stress).



The Causes

Although the huge amount of laboratory tests, X-rays and anatomy-pathological investigations, the researchers did not spot a specific cause of the syndrome.

However, the medical scientists identified multiple triggers, such as psychosocial factors (i.e. anxiety) and biological factors (i.e. bowel infections).

In addition to these, there are food intolerances and allergies, the chronic use of medicines (i.e. anti-inflammatories, antibiotics) and stress.

The symptoms

The typical symptoms, defined by the international diagnostic criteria, are pain or abdominal swelling which occur once per week for at least 3 months in the last year. Additionally, they are linked to two or more of the following symptoms:

  • Defecation
  • Change of the frequency of the evacuation
  • Change of the consistence of the faeces

Other symptoms can be:

  • Presence of mucus in the faeces
  • Difficulty in evacuating
  • Swelling or abdominal distension (sometimes both)

Some useful tips

It has been demonstrated that sometimes a change of the lifestyle can bring to a regression of the syndrome. However, before changing the diet it is necessary to identify the food which seems to exacerbate the symptoms and report it to a doctor.

Consequently, you should:

  • Follow a balanced diet, always bearing in mind the food which increases the discomfort
  • Drink a lot of still water
  • Avoid chewing gums
  • Eat slowly, in order to avoid the unintended air intake in the stomach
  • Avoid abundant meals; it is better to eat less and more often
  • Practice physical activity
  • Do not misuse medicines
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