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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the large intestine. Though chronic and incurable, it can be managed through long term medication and counseling. However, what is reassuring is that IBS does not cause changes in bowel tissue or increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

The symptoms of IBS are long term and different from person to person. Common symptoms are: 

  • Abdominal pain, 
  • cramping or bloating related to bowel movement
  • Changes in appearance of bowel movements
  • Changes in the frequency of bowel movements
  • bloating, increased gas or mucus in the stool.

More serious symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea at night
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent pain that isn't relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement

The above may be indicative of colon cancer and necessitate timely intervention by a doctor. 

The exact cause of IBS isn't known but possible factors responsible for IBS include: 

Muscle contractions in the intestine: Muscles in the walls of the intestines contract as they move food through the digestive tract. Stronger and longer contractions can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. On the contrary, weaker contractions can slow down the passage leading to hard, dry stools.

Nervous system: Abnormalities in the nerves of the digestive system may cause the sufferer to feel greater than normal discomfort when the abdomen stretches from gas or stool. The brain-gut connection works differently in IBS patients. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and the intestines in IBS patients cause the body to overreact to changes that normally occur in the digestive process, resulting in pain, diarrhea, or constipation.

Severe infection: IBS can be brought on after a severe bout of diarrhea (gastroenteritis) caused by bacteria or a virus or flare with a surplus of bacteria in the intestines (bacterial overgrowth).

Early life stress: People exposed to stressful events, such as mental trauma, abuse, divorce, or death of a loved one early on in life tend to suffer more from IBS.

Changes in gut microbes: Some bacteria, fungi, and viruses normally live in the intestines and are crucial to gut health. Research has revealed that microbes in people with IBS might differ from those in healthy people.

The triggers for IBS are: 

Food: Certain foods or beverages, including wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk, and carbonated drinks can worsen the symptoms of IBS in some people. 

Stress: IBS sufferers will experience worse or more frequent signs and symptoms during periods of increased stress. 

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