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

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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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