Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What's Behind It?

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome vary depending on the type, and so do the therapy. Diet plays an important role. An overview of the bowel disease

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Irritable bowel syndrome - in short

  • Irritable bowel syndrome is a digestive tract disease
  • The exact causes are unclear. Many factors are likely to play a role, such as food intolerance, infections, and stress
  • Typically abdominal pain and other discomforts associated with constipation, diarrhea or a change of both and / or gas
  • The doctor makes the diagnosis when there is a typical complex of complaints and other causes such as an infectious or chronic inflammatory bowel disease have been ruled out by medical diagnostics
  • Therapy depends on which symptoms are predominant and which causes play a role. A change in diet often helps. Medicines and psychological procedures are also used

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a malfunction of the bowel. In surveys, 10 to 15 percent of the population reported irritable bowel-like symptoms. The disease is accompanied by abdominal pain and other symptoms related to bowel movements. You can find more about this in the Symptoms & Diagnosis chapter. Irritable bowel syndrome occurs about twice as often in women as in men.

The restrictions on the quality of life associated with irritable bowel syndrome are different: around half of those affected do not feel restricted by the symptoms and do not seek medical help. The extent of the impairments in everyday life (e.g. work, family, sexuality, leisure time) ranges from minor to major for the other half.

The terms "irritable colon" and "irritable colon" previously used for the disease are misleading because it is now assumed that the disease is not limited to the large intestine, the so-called colon. The English name for irritable bowel syndrome is Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Causes: Many factors probably play a role

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease with many faces. There may not be "the" irritable bowel syndrome, but many. This is supported by the fact that researchers have now identified several irritable bowel subtypes (see chapter Symptoms & Diagnosis), in which the main symptoms differ. Secondly, scientists suspect that different triggers are possible, which in turn could set in motion different pathogenic mechanisms in the intestine.

Interplay between the brain, psyche and stomach

The central nervous system and the intestinal nervous system are in close communication via messenger substances that are released by nerve fibers: via the so-called intestinal-brain axis. Experts speculate that the intestinal nervous system, also known as the abdominal brain, is overactive in irritable bowel patients. On the one hand, this can cause discomfort in the stomach. On the other hand, the psyche is presumably influenced by the overactive abdominal brain - conversely, the mood also affects the gastrointestinal tract. Studies show that irritable bowel syndrome is often associated with depression, chronic stress, emotional trauma and anxiety disorders. However, the disease is not a mental illness.