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Causes and Risk Factors of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Woman with Abdominal Pain

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) refers to a disorder of the lower intestinal tract that can cause pain and embarrassing situations. There can be different triggers for anyone diagnosed with this condition. It is one of the most common intestinal problems seen by doctors, and stress can often make it worse.

IBS Causes

It is still not known exactly what causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome. However, if you do have IBS, you probably react strongly to things that do not bother other people. Some common IBS triggers are:

  • Food: Many people find that their symptoms worsen when they eat certain foods. For instance:
    • Chocolate, milk and alcohol might cause constipation or diarrhea.
    • Carbonated beverages and some fruits and vegetables may lead to bloating and discomfort.
  • Stress: Many people find that their symptoms are worse or more frequent during stressful events. While stress may aggravate symptoms, it does not cause them.

IBS Risk Factors

You may be more susceptible to Irritable Bowel Syndrome if you:

  • Are Young: IBS symptoms first appear before the age of 35 for about half of those with the disorder.
  • Are Female: More women than men are diagnosed with this condition.
  • Have a family history of IBS: People who have a parent or sibling with IBS are at increased risk of the condition. It is not clear whether the influence of family history of IBS risk is related to genes, to shared factors in a family's environment, or both.

Drexel Gastroenterology

Drexel Gastroenterology expertly treats patients with digestive health disorders. Our regionally and nationally recognized experts work with your primary care physician to ensure the highest standard of care. Our patients have access to Drexel Medicine's Center for Digestive Health, which has been recognized for quality and safety by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) and provides outpatient colonoscopies in a comfortable setting.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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