Are you or a loved one experiencing repeated cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation? It could be a symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS affects the large intestine but fortunately, it does not cause visible changes in your bowel or indicate disease in your digestive tract.

If you think you might have IBS, you’re not alone! IBS is very common — in fact, about 10% to 15% of the US population have it. People are more likely to have symptoms if they are under the age of 50, are female, have a family history of IBS, have mental health issues, and/or have a history of abuse.

While the exact cause of IBS is not known, possible factors include muscle contractions in the intestine, abnormalities in the nervous system, infection caused by bacteria or viruses, early life stress, especially in childhood, and changes in gut microbes.

Be aware that symptoms can be triggered, but not caused, by certain foods or beverages, including wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, and carbonated drinks. Stress can also worsen symptoms for many people. To err on the safe side, try to find ways to de-stress and enjoy foods that work for you!

If you experience persistent and more serious symptoms, including weight loss, intestinal bleeding, iron deficiency anemia, unexplained vomiting, or difficulty swallowing, we encourage you to see a doctor. Doctors may treat IBS by recommending probiotics, mental health therapies, medicines, and/or changes in lifestyle and diet.