Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Authored by Dr Colin Tidy, 02 Jul 2017

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Reviewed by:
Dr Adrian Bonsall, 02 Jul 2017

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long-term (chronic) condition of the gut (bowel) that causes episodes of tummy (abdominal) cramps, bloating and either constipation or diarrhoea. IBS is a problem with how the bowel works. There is otherwise nothing wrong with the bowel.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may not cause any harm to your body but it sometimes causes a lot of discomfort. It isn't known what causes IBS. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. There is no cure for IBS but some simple lifestyle changes and treatments usually make the symptoms much better.

What is IBS?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is common. It is thought to affect about 1 in 5 people in the UK at some time in their lives. In IBS, the function of the gut is upset, yet all parts of the gut look normal, even when looked at under a microscope. IBS can affect anyone at any age but it most often first develops in young adults. Women are affected more often than men.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) usually causes symptoms long-term and often stays with you for the rest of your life. However, the symptoms tend to come and go. You may have long spells without any symptoms, or may have only mild symptoms. Treatment can often help to ease symptoms when they flare up. IBS often improves with time and, in some cases, symptoms clear up for good at some stage.

Is your poo normal?

Concerns should be raised if the bowel habit changes significantly from what is 'normal' for an individual, particularly if the frequency increases and the stool becomes looser, if there is blood visible on wiping or mixed in with the stool, or if it is associated with abdominal pain or weight loss.

— Dr Adam Haycock, What does your poo say about you?

Further reading and references

How to treat IBS without medication
What does your poo say about you?

I don’t know if my symtoms are ibs I’ve had blood tests and pelvic scan and colonoscopy which was all clear but get tummy pains a lot my toilet is hard sometimes then soft but not really like...