At the moment there are no clear causes of IBS.
Younger adults are those who are most likely to develop IBS. Some of us may have mild symptoms of this condition, without even realising it.
You may have times when your bowels don’t behave as they usually do, or occasionally have a bloated and painful abdomen, without connecting these symptoms to IBS. On the other hand, the symptoms may be much stronger and distressing.
IBS may be caused by over-activity in the gut. This is the long tube that goes all the way from your mouth to your bottom – food goes in at one end and out at the other. Food is squeezed along this tube when the muscles in the gut contract.
If these muscular contractions behave abnormally, or become overactive, it can cause you pain, and constipation or diarrhoea.
We don’t know why the muscles or nerves in the gut become overactive. It may be that the messages sent to the gut from the brain cause the problem. Stress may play a part.
IBS symptoms can become worse when you are angry, anxious, depressed or stressed. If you’ve had a traumatic event in your past, this may also have a link to IBS.
Other possible causes of IBS are:
Intolerance to certain foods, although this isn’t thought to affect many people
- Stomach infections, such as gastroenteritis. It’s thought this may make the gut more sensitive, and cause on-going IBS symptoms.
Read our guide to IBS treatments
Read our irritable bowel syndrome symptoms
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