Irritable bowel

The causes and mechanisms aren't known in detail.

Overview

The causes and mechanisms aren't known in detail. A genetically predisposed hyperactivity of the nervous system in the gut is suspected. This causes bloating, abdominal pain and impaired evacuation of the bowels. Treatment includes individual approaches such as a change in diet and relaxation techniques.

Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort (e.g. bloating)
    • Feeling of pressure or being bloated and cramps
    • Improves after bowel movement
    • No symptoms during the night
  • Impaired evacuation of the bowels
    • Constipation or diarrhoea, frequent need to pass stools
    • Feels as if bowel isn’t completely emptied
    • Possibly mucus in stools, NO blood
  • Additional pain syndromes
  • Food intolerances
    • Lactose, fructose and sorbitol (artificial sweetener)
    • Often discomfort during eating
  • Psychological symptoms (sometime cause, sometimes consequence)
  • Accompanying effects
The following can cause similar symptoms:

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Mechanisms aren’t known in detail
Hypotheses
  • Genetically predisposed hyperactivity of the nervous system in the gut
    • Intensive awareness of stretch stimuli in this organ
    • Impaired gut motility
  • Inflammatory processes
  • Stress and psychological conflict
  • Food intolerances

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Stool analysis and blood tests
  • Ultrasound, contrast radiography, CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Colonoscopy (endoscopy of colon) with biopsy (removal of tissue samples), if necessary

A diagnosis may only be made if no organic causes for the bowel and digestive problems have been found (diagnosis of exclusion)

Possible therapies
  • Individual, no standard approach, trying out of various methods
  • Antispasmodic medication
  • Alternative medical practices
  • Psychological counselling and psychotropic medication, if necessary

What can I do myself?

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently (rather than three big meals a day)
  • Chew food well, drink enough (approx. 1.5 litres per day)
  • Limit consumption of cheese and other high-protein dairy products
  • Don't eat food causing flatulence (onions, cabbage, celery, etc.)
  • Lots of exercise, relaxation
  • Avoid stress
  • Household remedies for abdominal cramps or pain:
    • Moist warm stomach poultices
    • Chamomile, fennel or caraway tea
    • Peppermint oil (for rubbing, in capsule form)

Get a personal Preventive Care Recommendation now.

When to see a doctor?

  • Massive or unusual diarrhoea
  • High fever
  • Blood in stools
  • Weight loss, night sweats

In the second half of life, stool irregularities should always be investigated by a doctor.

Further information

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)
www.selbsthilfeschweiz.ch

Synonyms

irritable bowel, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable colon, functional abdominal complaint, IBS, nervous colon, spastic colon

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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