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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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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:

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Depression

Stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation can cause enough distress in a person's life. But often they are not the only problems. Studies show that anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of people who seek treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also have some psychiatric disorder. This may include panic disorder, anxiety, and major depression. Although anxiety is often a problem for IBS patients, depression can also play a role in aggravating symptoms. As far as scientists know, IBS does...

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  • 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.
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