Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Cause

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn't known. But health experts believe that faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms. In some people, this miscommunication causes abnormal muscle contractions or spasms, which often cause cramping pain. The spasms may speed the passage of stool, causing diarrhea. Or they may slow it down, causing constipation or bloating.

Many people who have IBS seem to have unusually sensitive intestines. It isn't known why their intestines are more likely to react strongly to the elements that contribute to IBS. People who have IBS may start having symptoms because of one or more factors, including:

Recommended Related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Behavioral Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

One approach to coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is behavioral therapy. Why? Stress and anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms. Behavioral therapy can help you cope with these feelings and hopefully reduce some IBS symptoms. It's not known what causes pressure and worry to trigger stomach pain, discomfort, diarrhea, or constipation. But learning how to effectively manage emotional reactions seems to prevent or ease suffering. "The majority of IBS patients seem to show some improvement with behavioral...

Read the Behavioral Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) article > >

  • Eating (though no particular foods have been linked with IBS).
  • Stress and psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Hormonal changes, such as during the menstrual cycle.
  • Some medicines, such as antibiotics.
  • An infection in the digestive tract, such as salmonella.
  • Genetics. IBS may be more likely to occur in people who have a family history of the disorder.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 05, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

what is ibs
Slideshow
lactose intolerance
Slideshow
 
Finding Right Diet IBS
Article
myth and facts about constipation
Slideshow
 
IBS Trigger Foods
Video
Supplements for IBS What Works
Article
 
IBS Symptoms Quiz
Quiz
digestive health
Slideshow
 
gluten free diet
Slideshow
digestive myths
Slideshow
 
what causes diarrhea
Video
top foods for probiotics
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections