What is IBS

What is IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gut disorder. The cause is not known. Symptoms can be quite variable and include tummy (abdominal) pain, bloating, and sometimes bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation. Symptoms tend to come and go. IBS is a disorders that are more common than you think. Estimates indicate that approximately 15-20% of the world population have IBS. According to recent studies, 25% of the population in Sweden have recurring stomach problems every week and as many as 73% have had problems at some time in the past year. Most of those seeking treatment for IBS are women 20-65 years. Among men, the number of reported cases is much lower due to men generally seek healthcare less often. Among children and adolescents, the number of those diagnosed with IBS is on the rise. A typical IBS person is a high-performance, active person who finds it difficult to say no and therefore takes on more responsibilities than he/she can manage. It has long been known that psychological factors are important in IBS and the anxiety and stress can worsen the disease.

Much research is underway in the area of IBS, both in terms of cause and treatment. Previously, healthcare professionals were not giving specific dietary advice, but limited to general council to adjust the amount of fiber, remove lactose. In the worst case no advice has been given.

Causes of IBS

The causes of IBS are still not fully known. Heredity factor is about 20-50%. In addition, there are several theories that include disorders of intestinal motor function, defective gas transportation, sparse filters of the nervous system between the stomach and the brain, changes in the intestinal flora, and low-grade inflammation in the intestinal mucous.

Most patient say that they either had stomach problems as long as they remember, or that they received the diagnosis when they were around 20 years after a stomach illness / infection or after a period of prolonged stress or trauma. Many feel that stress and anxiety aggravates the symptoms and have therefore thought that the disease was purely psychosomatic. What we know is that several factors contribute to the disorder, and diet and stress are of crucial importance for symptom formation.


  • Pain and discomfort may occur in different parts of the tummy (abdomen). Pain usually comes and goes. The length of each bout of pain can vary greatly. The pain often eases when you pass stools (faeces) or wind. Many people with IBS describe the pain as a spasm or colic. The severity of the pain can vary from mild to severe, both from person to person, and from time to time in the same person.
    • Headache.
    • Tiredness.
    • Backache.
    • Muscle pains.
  • Bloating and swelling of your abdomen may develop from time to time.
  • Changes in stools:
    • Some people have bouts of diarrhoea, and some have bouts of constipation.
    • Some people have bouts of diarrhoea that alternate with bouts of constipation.
    • Sometimes the stools become small and pellet-like. Sometimes the stools become watery or more loose. At times, mucus may be mixed with the stools.
    • There may have a feeling of not emptying the back passage (rectum) after going to the toilet.
    • Some people have urgency, which means they have to get to the toilet quickly. A morning rush is common. That is, they feel an urgent need to go to the toilet several times shortly after getting up. This is often during and after breakfast.
  • Other symptoms which sometimes occur – include:
    • Feeling sick (nausea).
    • Belching.
    • Poor appetite.
    • Feeling quickly full after eating.
    • Heartburn.
    • Bladder symptoms (an associated irritable bladder).