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Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

is a condition that prevents food from moving through your intestines normally. The food may move through too slowly or too quickly. This causes bloating, increased gas, constipation, or diarrhea. Signs and symptoms of IBS may come and go. Symptoms can occur a few times a week to once a month. IBS can go away for years and suddenly return. Your symptoms may worsen after you eat a big meal or if you do not eat enough healthy foods.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Abdominal pain that disappears after you have a bowel movement
  • Abdominal cramps that are worse after you eat
  • Gas
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or both
  • Feeling like you need to have a bowel movement after you just had one
  • Mucus in your bowel movement
  • Feeling that you have not completely emptied your bowels after a bowel movement

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • Your bowel movements are dark or have blood in them.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have pain in your rectum.
  • Your abdominal pain does not go away, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for IBS

may include medicine to decrease diarrhea or soften your bowel movements. You may also need medicine to treat constipation or decrease abdominal pain and muscle spasms.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. You may need to avoid certain foods to decrease your symptoms.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. For most people, good liquids to drink are water, juice, and milk.
  • Exercise regularly. Ask about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can decrease your blood pressure and improve your health.
  • Manage stress. Stress may slow healing and cause illness. Learn new ways to relax, such as deep breathing.
  • Keep a record of everything you eat and drink, and your symptoms, for 3 weeks. Bring this record with you to your follow-up visits.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptom checker

Mayo Clinic Reference