Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). Around 1 in


5 Australian adults will experience the unpleasant symptoms at some time, which include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea and constipation.


Even though the symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort and distress, IBS — unlike inflammatory bowel disease — doesn't cause permanent damage to the bowel, nor increase your risk of colorectal cancer.


The condition usually develops in early adulthood, between the ages of 15 and 40. Women are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with IBS than men.




doctor for tests to rule out other causes for your symptoms. Symptoms that may indicate a more serious condition include:

  • Rectal bleeding


  • Persistent and/or severe abdominal pain


  • Weight loss


  • Fever


Once you have a proper diagnosis, there are a range of prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medicines that can relieve your symptoms when they occur, or prevent them from occurring in the first place.


Ask your pharmacist at your local Direct Chemist Outlet for advice on the right product for you.


Tips to help yourself



Many people with IBS can help to control their symptoms by avoiding triggers, managing diet, lifestyle and stress, and treating symptoms as they occur with appropriate medications.


Symptoms of IBS


The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. Symptoms may include:


  • Abdominal pain or cramping


  • A bloated feeling


  • Gas


  • Diarrhoea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhoea


  • Mucous in the stools


  • A feeling of incomplete evacuation after passing a stool


  • Nausea or heartburn


IBS is a chronic (on-going) condition, although there will likely be times when the symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.


The Components of


the Digestive System












 Small Intenstine


 Large Intenstine


The cause is unknown


While the underlying cause of IBS is still unknown, certain environmental factors have been found to trigger attacks in people susceptible to IBS. Many people with IBS describe their ‘sensitive‘ stomach, and are aware of what triggers their stomach to become ‘upset’.


Changes of routine or diet, emotional stress, infection and food intolerances are common triggers for people with IBS.


Research has shown that the neurotransmitter serotonin may be important in the symptoms of IBS, by altering the function of nerve cells in the bowel and causing changes in pain sensation and bowel function.


There is also some evidence to suggest that an imbalance between the amount of 'good' and 'bad' bacteria in the bowel may be responsible for IBS symptoms. Some studies have indicated that


it may be possible to restore the healthy balance of bacteria in people with IBS by introducing new living organisms, known as, into the gut.


When to see a doctor


It’s true, there is no known cause of IBS, no specific test to diagnose it, and no magic ‘cure’. It is a chronic condition that usually needs long term symptom management.


And all too often, most people with IBS symptoms do not seek medical help – just assuming that nothing can be done. But because other conditions can produce similar symptoms to IBS, such as inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer, it's important to see your



Recognising triggers for IBS is important to help prevent future episodes. It can be useful to keep a diary of events surrounding each episode, as this may help identify patterns in daily life that cause or aggravate symptoms.


And once you have found your triggers, the obvious choice is to avoid foods and other substances that clearly provoke symptoms (e.g. artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and aspartame; lactose if lactose intolerant; gas-producing foods such as beans)


If you suffer from IBS, try the following to help improve your life:


  • Modify your lifestyle to reduce stress


  • Eat high fibre foods or take a fibre supplement (unless fibre worsens your symptoms)


  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine


  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water or


herbal tea a day


  • Keep the fat in your diet down to 30g a day


  • Exercise regularly to help regulate bowel movements

DISCLAIMER: This material contains general information about medical conditions and treatments and is intended for educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical or professional advice, nor should it be used for the purposes of diagnosing or treating any illness. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your local pharmacist or health care provider to obtain professional advice relevant to your specific circumstances.