Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) What You Need to Know


Intestines, Bowel, Guts, Intestinal, Gastrointestinal

Facts – About IBS 

      • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common disorders affecting between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. 
      • Globally, IBS affects 10-15% of the total population. 
      • The condition is more common among women. Almost two out of every three affected with the condition are females. 
      • IBS affects people of all ages including children and the elderly but is most common under the age of 50.
      • IBA accounts for up to 12% of the visits to the hospitals. 
      • 2.5-3.5 million people visit the doctor’s office annually due to IBS symptoms in the US only. 
      • Around 30-40% of visits to gastroenterologists are due to the symptoms of IBS. 
      • Unfortunately, many people do not recognize the symptoms of IBS.
      • Many people with the symptoms of IBS do not need medical care. 
      • Contrary to popular opinion, IBS is not Chrons Disease. Although the symptoms are similar, the reason for their initial existence is different.

What is IBS?

Crohn's Disease

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a medical condition characterized by a group of gastrointestinal conditions. The symptoms can include abdominal cramps, pain, discomfort, and bloating. It is also characterized by abnormal bowel movement which alters between diarrhea or/and constipation. 

Technically, IBS is considered a “functional” disorder because it affects the normal functioning of the digestive system. The core problem lies with the movement of the organs involved in digestion instead of damage to the tissues or internal lining of the digestive tract organs. 

Signs and Symptoms of IBS 

As mentioned earlier, IBS is a cluster of symptoms that are typically associated with abdominal discomfort. Other common signs and symptoms of IBS include:  

      • Diarrhea: In some cases, people have IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D). This means that they often have a sudden urge to have loose stools even when they do not have indigestion.
      • Constipation: Not all cases of IBS have diarrhea. Instead, there are some cases where IBS is accompanied by constipation. Such patients experience strained bowel movements and inconsistent stools. 
      • Bloating and gas
      • Abdominal cramps and swelling in the lower abdomen. 
      • Pain and discomfort associated with certain foods
      • Nausea and occasional vomiting. 
      • Loss of appetite
      • Weight loss 
      • Stools with inconsistent texture. 

Though indigestion is not a symptom of IBS, almost 70% of people with this condition also experience indigestion. Since the condition is more common among women, most of the symptoms intensify during the menstrual periods. 

Types of IBS 

According to the symptoms, IBS can be classified into four categories or types. 

IBS with Diarrhea

This specific type of IBS specifically affects the large intestine. As a result, patients of this condition experience frequent loose stools which is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. In some cases, people may also lose control over bowel movements. In such severe cases, treatment is essential to manage the symptoms of IBS. 

IBS with Constipation

This type of IBS usually affects young adults and adolescents. Stools are often very hard and the frequency is inconsistent. People with this type of IBS also commonly experience constipation. 

IBS with Constipation and Diarrhea 

Some people have mixed IBS which means that they have alternating patterns of diarrhea and constipation. 

Unsubtyped IBS 

Other symptoms of IBS which do not fit into the above three categories fall under this type known as unsubtyped IBS. 

What Causes IBS?

As of now the exact cause of IBS is still not known. Medical practitioners around the world agree that a number of factors contribute to this condition. Some of the factors include:

      • Altered pattern of movement of gastrointestinal organs
      • Abnormal signals to and from the brain
      • Changes insensitivity to pain and 
      • Food intolerance 

Some of the risk factors which increase the likelihood of developing IBS may include the following: 

      • Infections in the gastrointestinal tract including stomach, large and small intestines
      • Hormonal imbalance 
      • Certain psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression
      • In some cases, genetics may also contribute towards IBS Managing IBS 

IBS cannot be treated however, the symptoms can be managed by avoiding triggers and adopting a few lifestyle changes. 

IBS Triggers

Certain types of foods as well as stress and anxiety can trigger or intensify symptoms of IBS in some people. 


Red Peppers
Photo by 王小明 on Unsplash

Some of the common food ingredients which are often considered as IBS triggers include:  

        • Red peppers
        • Red wine 
        • Green Onion 
        • Wheat 
        • Cow Milk 

A better idea is to substitute these ingredients with other food items such as spinach, tofu, salmon, and broccoli, which are more stomach-friendly. 


According to research, stress and IBS are closely related. Stress increases the sensitivity of the colon and increases the movement of the organs of the gastrointestinal tract. Also, stress increases the risk of IBS because this condition is a result of a complex interaction between the brain and the stomach, and other organs of the digestive system. 

Lifestyle Changes to Improve the Symptoms of IBS 

Apart from avoiding triggers, bringing in a few lifestyle changes play an important role in improving the symptoms of IBS. Some of the tips to improve the symptoms of IBS include the following:

      • Reduce the intake of caffeine. 
      • Add more fibrous foods to your diet. 
      • Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water every day. 
      • Avoid the use of alcohol and tobacco. 
      • Reduce the intake of dairy products including cheese and milk. 
      • Eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of three large meals a day. 

In most cases, IBS can be managed by avoiding triggers and bringing about a few lifestyle changes. But many people may also require medical treatment. If you are one of those, make sure that you follow the instructions of your medical caregiver carefully. 

Making Positive Changes in Your Life When You Have Crohn’s Disease

As of this writing, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but medication is available that can induce long-term remission, which can allow you to live a fairly normal lifestyle.

On the other hand, medication is not the only thing that you should rely on. Long-term remission means that the disorder can be triggered. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, try making some positive changes in your lifestyle. This allows you to take charge and avoid letting this condition get the best of you. 

The following are a few ways that you can make some positive changes in your life when you have Crohn’s disease:

Learn More About the Disease

Educating yourself about Crohn’s disease is one of the major ways in which you can start to bring about a positive change in your life. If you don’t understand Crohn’s, you might unwittingly believe many of the myths and misconceptions about the condition, which can negatively impact how you deal with it. 

You can find plenty of resources from your doctors or find the right sources online that can shed more light on this illness and how you can live a happier and healthier life on a day-to-day basis. It also allows you to understand the different symptoms you might experience. No two cases of Crohn’s are alike and your symptoms might differ from the ones showcased by others. Knowing this fact will allow you to be more hopeful.

Similarly, each year, as medical technology advances, new medications and new treatment methods are being explored. While Crohn’s disease is incurable, there is hope that in the future, certain medications or therapies will be introduced that can guarantee complete recovery instead of just long-term remission. 

Monitoring Your Diet

Apple with tape measure around it




Since your gut can get irritated with Crohn’s disease, you need to pay attention to your diet. The many symptoms that one experiences with this condition can cause dehydration, malnutrition, and even loss of appetite. A good idea is to make sure you are eating high-protein foods. Opt for smaller serving sizes as well as items that are easier to digest. 

Your physician will assign a diet for you as well as a list of supplements that you should consume. In many cases, Crohn’s disease can also cause a major vitamin and mineral deficiency so you could be lacking vitamin B12, C, folic acid, calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium. These are essential for your body.

It’s also a good idea to keep a food diary so that you can see which foods your body reacts positively to. Despite the recommendations provided, there can be instances when Crohn’s disease makes your body react badly to a certain food item. Note down the ones that cause inflammation or trigger other symptoms. 

Attend a Support Group

Woman holding hands with others

Getting Crohn’s disease might make you feel bleak, isolated, or unhappy, but this a condition that afflicts over 780,000 people in the US alone. This means that you can easily find a support group of people who understand what it feels like to have a chronic condition that you must live with. A support group is necessary because one of the major symptoms of Crohn’s disease is depression.

It can also be extremely difficult for someone to try and assimilate themselves with the condition. By getting into a support group, you can ensure that you don’t fall into a depressive state. Stress and anxiety can all contribute to causing inflammation and worsening your condition. Another important reason why you need to have a support group is to process your anger.

Many Crohn’s patients are angry at the condition and the way the world perceives people with Crohn’s disease. Despite being such a prevalent disorder, there are still so many misconceptions about it that it can be hard to handle the ignorance shown by others. In times like these, someone with Crohn’s disorder must take a step back and talk to their support group or a therapist about it.

Don’t Let the Good Days Fool You

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can fluctuate from person to person and from day to day. Some days, you might experience no symptoms while other days, you might feel like you are experiencing all of them at once. It is necessary to remember that regardless of the good days, you stick to your treatment plan. Treatment plans are designed to ease inflammation, nourish your body, and ensure that you experience remission.

However, even when it goes into remission, if care is not taken, the condition can flare up again. If you are experiencing remission, you should continue to follow the treatment plan until your physician tells you that it is fine to stop or switch to a new one. In this manner, you can ensure that you can experience a long-term remission. If you stop your treatment plan prematurely, you ruin your chances of this happening and might trigger your condition again.

Be consistent and you will be able to live your life with a semblance of normalcy as well. Many people with Crohn’s lead a full life so be patient as well. Once you are in remission, you can be as carefree as they are too. Never stop your treatment because you think it is not working. Always consult your physician and work with them to get a customized treatment plan. Just like no two Crohn’s disease symptoms are the same, similarly, no two treatment plans will be the same. 

Seven Myths about Crohn’s Disease that Need to Go Away

”Man with stomach pains"
Photo by szefei –

Despite the fact that Crohn’s disease impacts around 780,000 people in the US alone, there is not enough said about it. Due to this reason, there are a lot of prejudices and misconceptions about the condition that can seriously mar your perceptions. Whether you have Crohn’s disease or know someone who is suffering from it, it is a good idea to educate yourself about this condition. 

The following are a few of the most common myths about Chron’s Disease that need to be repudiated: 

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease are the Same

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS is often wrongfully associated with Crohn’s disease because of the similarities in the condition. They’re both gastrointestinal ailments that irritate the gut. While this does mean that both of them are classified under irritable bowel diseases – IDS, IBS is a completely different condition. Crohn’s causes inflammation in the track whereas IBS affects the contractions of the muscles. Treatments and triggers for both of these conditions are also different so it is necessary to understand the differences. 

  • Crohn’s Disease Happens to Overweight People

Due to the fact that Crohn’s disease is a gastrointestinal condition, many people believe that overweight or obese people are more likely to develop it. On the other hand, Crohn’s disease does not occur in people because of the extra weight in their body. Careful research has highlighted that there are other circumstances, apart from a person’s body type, that causes Crohn’s to occur.

It is either inherited through a gene or it happens when the immune system of the body becomes compromised. There are many patients of Crohn’s disease who were healthy, physically fit individuals before the condition emerged.

  • Bad Eating Habits Cause Crohn’s Disease

This is not true at all. Crohns’ disease does not rely on your eating habits. However, your bad eating habits might be contributing to causing distress to your bowel. In this case, if a person is prone to getting Crohn’s disease, it might happen, but the chances for this are rather low.

Nevertheless, eating healthier is better for your gut and you so if you’re thinking of changing your diet, go for it. In rare cases, there have been times when an IDS condition caused by a bad diet can worsen and turn into Crohn’s disease, but this would mean that the immune system of the person has become compromised prior to this taking effect.

Learn more from this video below about proper eating with Chron’s Disease.

  • Crohn’s Disease Flares Up at an Age

No one needs to be a certain age to get diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The condition can occur in children and teens, as well as adults. Data shows that around 20% to 30% of patients were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease before the age of 20. In fact, the number of children getting diagnosed with the disease is growing with each passing year.

In many teens, Crohn’s can occur because of complications in their bodies during puberty. Similarly, others inherited the gene from their parents or there is a family history of the condition. The silver lining here though is that early detection of the condition can allow for early treatment. This allows the possibility of the condition to go into remission faster.

  • It is Only a Stomach Condition

One of the worst misconceptions is the belief that Crohn’s disease is only a stomach condition. This downplays the impact that this disorder actually has on the day to day life of the patient. For many, it is not just a stomach condition. Crohn’s disease can cause a wide array of symptoms including:

  • Causing anemia or malnutrition
  • Pain in the body
  • Unexplainable fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Ulcers and bleeding sores
  • Fever and inflammation of the joints
  • Inflammation of the eyes and skin

All these make it difficult to just consider Crohn’s to be a stomach condition. A person can experience some of all of these symptoms based on the severity of the condition. Luckily, when in remission, a person can experience next to none of the symptoms listed above.

  • It’s Not a Disability

Any condition that greatly mars a person’s ability to perform certain basic actions or go about their daily routine is a disability. Crohn’s disease definitely comes under this definition. Considering how debilitating the symptoms of this disorder can be, Crohn’s is a disability. This is particularly true when it is affecting the physical health of the person to such a large degree that they are unable to leave the house.

Many patients of Crohn’s disease dread leaving their homes for fear that the condition might flare-up. They also have to actively plan their day out in order to ensure that they are near a bathroom or other private area in case of an emergency. While some people might not have symptoms that cause such a huge problem, this isn’t always the case.

  • You Have to Get Your Colon Removed

A common misunderstanding is that if you get Crohn’s disease, the way to cure it is to remove all or part of your colon. However, this is not the case. First of all, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease so getting operated on to cure it is a myth. Secondly, removal of your colon only occurs when the condition has started to cause the walls to thicken and cause the passage to close. This prevents the passage of waste and also contributes to continued inflammation, muscle cramps, and abdominal pain.

While 70% of patients with Crohn’s disease do opt for this operation, it is not necessary for all patients. Moreover, for people who have severe Crohn’s, removal of the diseased part of the colon can allow the condition to go into remission. This doesn’t mean that the condition is cured. Care needs to still be taken to ensure that it goes into long-term remission and they still need to continue their treatment plan for Crohn’s disease.

Positive Results From Phase 3 Stelara Trial for Crohn’s Disease

Data from Phase 3 of the UNITI-2 study showed that treatment with Stelara, from Johnson & Johnson, successfully induced clinical response and remission in patients with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease.

Patients who participated had previously failed conventional therapy and those treated with Stelara demonstrated higher rates of clinical response at week 6 compared with placebo. Stelara is currently approved to treat moderate to severe plaque psoriasis and active psoriatic arthritis, but it is believed that the cytokines the therapy targets play a role in immune-mediated diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.

“Findings from this Phase 3 program provide an important first look into the efficacy and safety of Stelara induction therapy in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease—a disease where new therapeutic options are needed as the incidence continues to rise globally,” Brian Feagan, MD, professor of medicine, chief executive officer, and senior medical director at Robarts Research Institute, University of Western Ontario, and study investigator, said in a statement.

Participants in the trial received either a single intravenous infusion of placebo or Stelara 130 mg or 6 mg/kg (weight-tiered dosing). At week 6, 52% of Stelara 130 mg and 56% receiving the weight-tiered dosing had a reduction from baseline in the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index score of at least 100 points compared with 29% on the placebo.

The study also found that patients dosed with Stelara had significant improvements in signs and symptoms, in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire, and markers of inflammation.

Adverse events and infections reported occurred in similar proportions across the Stelara and placebo groups and no malignancies, deaths, opportunistic infections, cases of tuberculosis, or major adverse cardiovascular events were observed in Stelara patients.

“The Stelara Phase 3 UNITI-2 induction results are important findings, as induction of clinical response and clinical remission are important goals in the management of Crohn’s disease,” Newman Yeilding, MD, head of Immunology Development at Janssen Research & Development, LLC, said.

Research Finds Fungus Associated With Crohn’s Disease

Researchers have a new understanding of why some people develop Crohn’s disease: fungi.

A study led by researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has found that fungus is a key factor in the development of Crohn’s disease. Previous studies have shown that bacteria, genes, and diet all play factors in causing Crohn’s disease. The findings were published in mBio.

“Essentially, patients with Crohn’s have abnormal immune responses to these bacteria, which inhabit the intestines of all people,” senior author Mahmoud A Ghannoum, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said in a statement. “While most researchers focus their investigations on these bacteria, few have examined the role of fungi, which are also present in everyone’s intestines.”

The researchers studied the mycobiome and bacteriome of patients with Crohn’s and in their first-degree relatives who did not have Crohn’s, plus families in the area that did not have Crohn’s. The researchers found strong fungal-bacterial interactions in those with Crohn’s disease. The 2 bacteria and 1 fungus found worked together to produce a biofilm that can cause the inflammation the leads to Crohn’s symptoms.

This study represents the first time fungus has been linked to Crohn’s disease in humans. Dr. Ghannoum believes that the findings may lead to a new generation of treatments that can make a real difference in the lives of people with Crohn’s.

Less than a week after the findings were released, the Food and Drug Administration approved another treatment for Crohn’s disease: Stelara. The drug is approved to treat moderately to severely active Crohn’s disease in adults who failed or were intolerant to treatment with immunomodulators or corticosteroids.

“Because of the individual nature of these diseases, what works for one patient may not work for another. That is why it is so critical that our Crohn’s patients have many different treatment options available to them,” Michael Osso, president and CEO of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, said in a statement.

He added that with Stelara approved, many patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease who have exhausted available treatments have another option to hopefully induce remission, help manage their disease, and improve their quality of life.