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IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Triggers and Prevention

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IBS triggers and prevention facts

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a recurrent disease of the bowel. Treatment and management of symptoms include psychological support, dietary measures, management of food intake, and management of medications and/or psychological conditions.
  • Foods and drinks that dehydrate the body can trigger constipation in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Fatty foods can trigger diarrhea in people with the condition, but specific food triggers of diarrhea and other symptoms may vary between individuals.
  • Stress and anxiety can stimulate symptoms in many people with IBS.
  • Drugs like antibiotics, antidepressants and/or medicines that contain sorbitol may trigger symptoms.
  • In many women with IBS, menses and/or menstrual pain is related to the onset of symptoms.
  • Other triggers for symptoms may include
    • a chronic lack of exercise,
    • frequently eating while under stress, and
    • eating foods that are very hot or very cold.
  • There are several ways to reduce or stop many of the causes that trigger symptoms; for example, eat a balanced diet, avoid food and drinks that dehydrate the body or may cause diarrhea, keep a journal to identify personal triggers, reduce stressors or causes of anxiety, and discuss medications you are taking that may be triggering your symptoms with your doctor.
  • Consequently, for each individual, it is important to determine what foods, medications and/or conditions trigger symptoms. This short article is designed to be an introduction to treatment and management and provides common triggers of the condition. These are general descriptions of items that can trigger IBS.
  • IBS is not contagious from person to person and researchers are actively trying to determine the cause of this disease.

What is IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic relapsing gastrointestinal (mainly the large intestine or colon) disorder with signs and symptoms that may include:

IBS is a chronic condition that can be triggered in individuals by certain items in their diet, medications and/or by other conditions such as stress.

Some health-care professional categorize and term IBS into one of four categories:

  1. IBS-D (predominant symptoms is diarrhea)
  2. IBS-C (predominant symptoms is constipation)
  3. IBS-M (mixed diarrhea and constipation)
  4. IBS-U (unclassified)

Not all health-care professionals recognize these four categories.

Are stress and anxiety triggers for IBS?

Stress and anxiety may be triggers for IBS and the development of recurrent symptoms. Chronic stress experienced early in life (less than age 18) may increase the chances of developing the condition. Moreover, people diagnosed with IBS can have stress or anxiety trigger symptoms, such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Mucus defecation
  • Feelings of incomplete bowel movements

Are menstrual pain and IBS related?

Some studies show that many women with IBS have worse symptoms during their menstrual periods. Although the mechanism is not clear, some gastrointestinal cells have receptors for estrogen and progesterone so that changes in the hormone levels during the menstrual cycle may trigger increasing IBS symptoms. Women are twice as likely to develop IBS as men.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/23/2017


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