Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly referred to as IBS, is a disorder that affects the digestive system, particularly the large intestine. While there is no cure for IBS, removing certain foods from your diet, as well as adding supplements or medication can help relieve symptoms.

In this article you can find:

  • What is IBS?
  • Why does IBS occur?
  • What triggers IBS?
  • What foods and/or supplements can help relieve symptoms of IBS?

What is IBS?

IBS is a common condition that affects the digestive system. Signs and symptoms of IBS include abdominal cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation. The majority of individuals with IBS are able to manage their symptoms by managing their diet, lifestyle, and stress. However, some individuals can experience severe symptoms and may require medication and/or counselling to help manage their symptoms.

Why does IBS occur?

The exact cause of IBS is unknown. However, researchers believe that some factors are linked to the condition. These include:

  • Muscle contractions in the intestine: Muscle contractions occur in the intestines while food passes through the digestive tract. Strong muscle contractions, as well as muscle contractions that last for longer periods can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhoea. On the other hand, weaker muscle contractions and muscle contractions that last for shorter periods can cause hard, dry stools, and constipation.
  • Nervous system: The nerves in the gut of individuals with IBS may be more sensitive than in individuals without. As a result, the brain processes the signals received from the gut differently, causing more severe symptoms.
  • Severe infection: IBS can potentially develop after an individual has experienced a severe gastrointestinal infection caused by bacteria or a virus, such as gastroenteritis.

What triggers IBS?

IBS symptoms are primarily triggered by food. The food that triggers IBS tend to be dependent on the individual, however some foods that tend to trigger many with IBS include wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, and carbonated drinks. Many individuals with IBS also report that their symptoms of IBS tend to increase as a result of stress. However, while stress may aggravate symptoms, it does not cause them.

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  1. Ferreira, A., Garrido, M. and Castro-Poças, F., 2019. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: News from an Old Disorder. GE - Portuguese Journal of Gastroenterology, 27(4), pp.255-268.
  2. Mayo Clinic. 2021. Irritable bowel syndrome - Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 15 August 2021].
  3. Western Journal of Medicine, 2002. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 176(3), pp.180-180.