Skip to content

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

    Font Size

    Who Is at Risk for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

    Doctors don’t know for sure what causes irritable bowel syndrome, but some things seem to make people more likely to have it than others. These risk factors for IBS include:

    Being a woman. About twice as many women as men have the condition. It’s not clear why, but some researchers think the changing hormones in the menstrual cycle may have something to do with it.

    Recommended Related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Treatment for IBS With Diarrhea (IBS-D)

    People who have IBS-D can often find relief from several types of treatment. You can make changes to your diet, take medication, find ways to relieve stress, or try behavioral therapy or alternative therapy. You may need a few of these approaches at the same time to get relief. IBS is a complex condition that not only involves problems with bowel movements but also belly pain, bloating, and gas. The goal of treatment is to improve all of your symptoms. Don't try to treat your IBS on your own...

    Read the Treatment for IBS With Diarrhea (IBS-D) article > >

    Age. IBS can affect people of all ages, but it's more likely for people in their teens through their 40s.

    Family history. The condition seems to run in families. Some studies have shown that your genes may play a role.

    Emotional trouble. Some people with IBS seem to have trouble with stress, have a mental disorder, or have been through a traumatic event in their lives, such as sexual abuse or domestic violence. 

    It's not clear what comes first -- the stress or the IBS. But there's evidence that stress management and behavioral therapy can help relieve symptoms in some people with the condition.

    Food sensitivities. Some people may have digestive systems that rumble angrily when they eat dairy, wheat, a sugar in fruits called fructose, or the sugar substitute sorbitol. Fatty foods, carbonated drinks, and alcohol can also upset digestion. 

    There's no proof any of these foods cause IBS, but they may trigger symptoms.

    Large meals, or eating while you do something stressful, like driving or working. Again, these activities don’t cause irritable bowel syndrome, but for those with a very sensitive colon, they can spell trouble.

    Medications. Studies have shown a link between IBS symptoms and antibiotics, antidepressants, and drugs made with sorbitol.

    Other digestive problems, like traveler's diarrhea or food poisoning. Some scientists think these illnesses may trigger a person’s first IBS symptoms.

    Talk to your doctor if you think you might have irritable bowel syndrome. She can discuss your symptoms with you and do some tests to find out what’s going on.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on March 01, 2016

    Today on WebMD

    filling glass of water from faucet
    Prevention strategies to try.
    stomach ache
    From symptoms to treatments.
    Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
    worried mature woman
    Are they related?
    IBS Trigger Foods
    Supplements for IBS What Works
    IBS Symptoms Quiz
    digestive health
    gluten free diet
    digestive myths
    what causes diarrhea
    man with abdominal pain