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What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic digestive disorder that affects millions of people in the UK. It causes abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and discomfort, making it essential to understand its symptoms, triggers, and diagnosis to manage this condition effectively.

Understanding IBS and its Symptoms

Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), IBS doesn’t cause structural damage to the intestines.

Instead, it disrupts the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to uncomfortable symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bloating and excessive gas
  • Diarrhoea or constipation (sometimes alternating between both)
  • Urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation
  • Mucus in the stool

Causes and Triggers of IBS

The exact cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) remains unclear, but several factors contribute to its development. 

Some common factors that can trigger or worsen IBS symptoms include:

  • Gut abnormalities: Abnormal gut motility and increased sensitivity in the intestines can lead to discomfort and changes in bowel habits

  • Psychological factors: Stress, anxiety, and depression can exacerbate IBS symptoms and may be linked to the gut-brain axis

  • Diet: Certain foods, such as fatty or spicy foods, dairy products, and artificial sweeteners, can trigger IBS symptoms in some individuals

  • Environmental factors: Infections or changes in the gut microbiome may play a role in the development of IBS

  • Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormones, especially in women during their menstrual cycle, can influence IBS symptoms

Understanding these causes and triggers is crucial in managing IBS effectively and improving the overall well-being of individuals living with this chronic digestive disorder.

Getting Diagnosed with IBS

If you experience persistent symptoms like abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and bloating, it is essential to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis.

  • Medical History: Your doctor will begin by taking a detailed medical history, including your symptoms, their duration, and any factors that seem to trigger or alleviate them


  • Tests for Ruling Out Other Causes: While there is no specific test for IBS, your GP may arrange blood & stool tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms

If you are concerned about IBS or need more information, you can visit the NHS website to learn about symptoms, treatment options, and lifestyle advice for managing IBS.

Get Your IBS Prescription Online

If you have been prescribed a drug like Mebeverine to help reduce your IBS symptoms, you can order your prescription online using your Healthera app.

It only takes a couple of minutes to set up your order for collection or home delivery from your local pharmacy!

To get started, simply click the button below:

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