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HealthInfo Canterbury

About irritable bowel syndrome

IBS painIrritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder in which your bowels don't work properly. It is also called functional bowel disorder.

It can cause symptoms such as pain, constipation, diarrhoea, and bloating.

We don't know exactly what causes IBS, but it seems to be related to your bowel being more sensitive than usual, and problems digesting your food.

IBS is very common and affects around one in six women and around one in nine men.

Do I have irritable bowel syndrome?

The most common symptoms of IBS are:

Your symptoms can come and go, and can last for a few days or up to a few months, often when you are feeling stressed or after you have eaten certain foods. They may often settle down for a long time. Some people have only mild symptoms and don't need treatment. People can have IBS through their lives, but most people can manage their symptoms well by changing what and how they eat and making lifestyle changes. IBS doesn't increase your chance of getting other bowel diseases, such as bowel cancer.

If you are worried about your symptoms and they are not settling down, talk to your GP, practice nurse, or dietitian.

This video from NHS Choices explains what IBS is and has some tips that might help you manage it.

On the next page: IBS tests and diagnosis

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by GP liaison, Gastroenterology, Canterbury DHB. March 2017.

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Review key: HIIBS-27995