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Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Alternative Names

    Spastic colon; Irritable colon; Mucous colitis; Spastic colitis


    The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.

    Lifestyle changes can be helpful in some cases of IBS. For example, regular exercise and improved sleep habits may reduce anxiety and help relieve bowel symptoms.

    Dietary changes can be helpful. However, no specific diet can be recommended for IBS in general, because the condition differs from one person to another. The following changes may help:

    • Avoid foods and drinks that stimulate the intestines (such as caffeine, tea, or colas)
    • Avoid large meals
    • Avoid wheat, rye, barley, chocolate, milk products, and alcohol
    • Increase dietary fiber

    Talk with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications.

    • Fiber supplements can make symptoms worse
    • Laxatives taken for constipation can become habit forming

    No one medication will work for everyone. Medications your doctor might try include:

    • Anticholinergic medications (dicyclomine, propantheline, belladonna, and hyoscyamine) taken about a half-hour before eating to control colon muscle spasms
    • Loperamide to treat diarrhea
    • Low doses of tricyclic antidepressants to help relieve intestinal pain
    • Lubiprostone for constipation symptoms
    • Medications that relax muscles in the intestines

    Counseling may help in cases of severe anxiety or depression.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Irritable bowel syndrome may be a lifelong condition. For some people, symptoms are disabling and reduce the ability to work, travel, and attend social events.

    Symptoms can often be improved or relieved through treatment.

    IBS does not cause permanent harm to the intestines, and it does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer.

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or if you notice a persistent change in your bowel habits.