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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:

    Recommended Related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Living with IBS: One Young Woman's Story

    I've had the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome -- a gastrointestinal disorder -- for my whole life, but when I was younger, I didn't realize anything was wrong. My parents thought my cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea were normal because they had similar symptoms. So I thought it was normal, too. As I grew up, I pretty much just coped with it. It was inconvenient, but I did my best. But three years ago, when I was 27, after having some minor surgery done, I had the worst symptoms ever...

    Read the Living with IBS: One Young Woman's Story 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 14, 2014
    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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