What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

During the digestive process, powerful muscles that line the walls of the intestines rhythmically contract and relax to move food through the digestive tract at the appropriate pace. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can occur if a miscommunication between the brain and the digestive system causes that pace to be either too fast or too slow. For instance, if the muscle contractions are too strong, food can move too quickly, and symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea can result. On the other hand, weak contractions can stall the passage of food and lead to hard, dry stools and constipation.

The underlying causes of IBS are not well understood. Some studies suggest that certain genetic and trauma-related factors can increase a person’s likelihood of developing this common condition. Additionally, the bowel sometimes overreacts to various elements, which can bring on or intensify the discomfort associated with IBS. Common triggers, which can vary from person to person, include:

  • Stress
  • Food intolerances (some common culprits include chocolate, broccoli, cauliflower, milk, beans, spices, fats, carbonated beverages, and alcohol)
  • Food allergies
  • Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Depression
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics

While IBS cannot be prevented, there are certain steps that you can take to ease your symptoms and extend the time between uncomfortable episodes. These include quitting tobacco and exercising regularly, in addition to avoiding your own particular triggers. In general, IBS does not worsen over time, nor does it lead to other conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. However, if you experience IBS symptoms, it’s still important to see a doctor who can perform a physical exam, or perhaps a blood test or stool analysis, to rule out other, more serious conditions.

If you’d like to discuss treatments for your IBS symptoms with a physician, feel free to contact or visit South Tampa Immediate Care. We do not require appointments.