Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a commonly reported bowel disorder identified by chronic abdominal discomfort, changes in bowel patterns and bloating.  IBS shares symptoms with other irritable bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Unlike these problems, however, the cause of IBS remains a subject of research.
Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
While a specific cause has not been identified, studies have identified several common factors shared by individuals who experience IBS. Surveys of patients have found that most believe their symptoms result from food they have eaten. Cereals and breads were frequently fingered in surveys, while spicy foods, dairy products and fruit also received note.  Fructose consumption has also been associated with IBS and those who reduce or eliminate fructose from the diet experience improvement. 
The health, or unhealthiness, of natural gut flora also appears to contribute to the onset of IBS and differences have been found between the gut bacteria (intestinal microbiota) of healthy people and those suffering from IBS.  Individuals recovering from an inflammation of the stomach and small intestine (gastroenteritis) have been found to experience IBS too. This suggests the mechanism that initiates IBS extends beyond your most recent meal.
Interesting side note — stress has been found to directly impact the symptoms of IBS. The greater the stress, the greater the chance of experiencing the discomfort of IBS. 
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Chronic bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation are the most commonly experienced symptoms. In most cases of IBS, normal behavior of the gut changes, accompanied by discomfort. One, or possibly several, of these symptoms may occur during an episode of irritable bowel syndrome.
Dangers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Perhaps the biggest danger of IBS is misdiagnosis. It’s indications are similar to other serious problems such as celiac disease or colitis. If you’re having abdominal distress, it’s important to determine the cause. Migraine, fibromyalgia and depression have also been found to occur more frequently in individuals suffering from IBS. 
What Can Be Done?
Eliminating IBS-causing foods, improving your diet, reducing stress and taking probiotics have all been found helpful when addressing the indications of irritable bowel syndrome.    Have you suffered from IBS? How have you found relief? Please leave a comment below and share your experience!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
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