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What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition of the digestive system that causes pain, cramping and discomfort in your tummy - the severity of the symptoms will vary from person to person.

If your digestive system works as it should, it moves food through it by squeezing and relaxing the intestine’s muscles. If you have IBS, this doesn't happen as it should, causing the symptoms.

It isn't known exactly what causes it but it's a long term condition. There isn't a cure currently, but it can usually be managed with treatment.

If you think that you have IBS, you can speak to one of our doctors for advice. They will listen to your symptoms, ask about any triggers you are aware of and tell you your next steps.

IBS symptoms

There are three main types of IBS that the condition can be categorised into:

  • IBS with diarrhoea
  • IBS with constipation
  • IBS with alternating constipation and diarrhoea

These categories may overlap – the symptoms can be very different from person to person. However, the most common symptoms of IBS include:

  • Tummy pain or cramps, which will ease after going to the toilet
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Wind
  • Bloating and swelling in your tummy
  • Suddenly or urgently needing to go to the toilet, and feeling the need to go to the toilet several times quickly after emptying your bowels
  • A feeling of not having emptied your bowels fully

You may experience some or even all of these symptoms, it varies from person to person.

Read more information on the symptoms of IBS.

Getting an IBS diagnosis

There isn't one test to diagnose IBS, so diagnosis is usually made by matching your symptoms with the condition, considering your family history and by ruling out other health conditions that have similar symptoms.

With Push Doctor, you can see a GP from the comfort of your own home, so you don’t have to be self-conscious or embarrassed talking about your IBS. The doctor will want to know if you have had any of the following systems for at least six months or more:

  • A change in your bowel habits, including constipation or diarrhoea
  • Bloating
  • Wind
  • Tummy discomfort or pain that eases after going to the toilet
  • Symptoms that worsen after you eat (this may only be after eating certain foods)

You may be referred for further testing.

For more detailed information about what will happen during a Push Doctor consultation, click here.

What are the causes of IBS?

The exact cause of IBS is not fully understood. There are a range of things that are thought to increase your chances of getting IBS, including:

  • Stress, anxiety or extreme emotions
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Overactivity in your brain
  • Food intolerances
  • Being oversensitive to pain

To read more about the causes and triggers of IBS.

IBS treatment

IBS is a long-term condition that unfortunately cannot be cured, but most people can lead a normal life and manage the symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes. Sometimes, medication or psychological treatment may also be offered.

Treatments that can be successful in helping manage IBS include:

  • A special IBS diet – this will need to be tailored to you
  • The FODMAP diet
  • Stress reduction techniques
  • Exercise
  • Medication
  • Psychological treatments

Your treatment plan will be tailored to your unique circumstances to make sure that it is successful in helping you manage your IBS symptoms. You can find out more about how IBS can be treated.

Articles on IBS