What is IBS?

IBS is a medical term used to describe a collection of gut symptoms not explained by any other disease. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping and wind.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder..

Despite numerous visits to the doctor and a thorough examination, in many cases, no physical cause for the symptoms is found. Yet it is impossible to simply ignore the symptoms, because they significantly reduce  quality of life.


Symptoms of IBS

The symptoms of IBS vary from person to person, but often include  bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, a feeling of fullness and abdominal cramping.

Fatigue, sleeping disorders, depression, backache, headache and joint pain are also frequently experienced  in combination with or as the result of IBS.


Diagnosing IBS

According to the current guidelines, IBS is diagnosed in adults if the following criteria are met:

  • Alterations of the digestive process and defecation (e.g. stomach ache, flatulence, etc.) last for more than three months and evolve into chronic intestinal disorders.
  • Complaints are so strong that the patient seeks medical advice and feels that his or her quality of life is compromised.
  • No further pathologies (e.g. coeliac disease) have been detected that could be responsible for the symptoms.

There is no single test that can definitively diagnose IBS, instead, your GP will test you for other possible causes of your symptoms, for example coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. This may involve physical examinations, blood tests, stool samples and camera investigations. Prior to visiting your GP, it may be helpful to write a diary of how and when your symptoms are occurring and how these relate to your daily routine, e.g what had you eaten/ drunk, what you were doing, where you were and who you were with.


What causes IBS?

IBS is common and affects approximately 10-20% of the UK population. More women than men are diagnosed with IBS. IBS symptoms can be triggered by a number of different factors and possible causes vary from person to person. Possible causes/ triggers include:

Are you a doctor or nutrition professional? You will find more detailed information on irritable bowel syndrome at Dr. Schär Institute, the knowledge platform for experts on the topic of gluten intolerance and the gluten-free diet.