What Causes IBS: Are You at Risk?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an uncomfortable and distressing condition to have. In addition to the pain and general discomfort of having diarrhea or constipation, IBS flare ups can negatively affect the quality of a person’s life, causing him or her to miss out on important events. Although the exact cause of IBS remains unknown, here are a few factors that have been linked to onset of this condition.

Age and Gender

Anyone of any age or gender can develop IBS. However, it is more likely to develop during adolescence or early adulthood. Additionally, IBS affects women twice as much as men. Hormonal changes may play a role in both cases. Some women with irritable bowel syndrome report that their symptoms worsen around their menstrual periods. This may be related to the uterine contractions that occur after ovulation. These contractions work to slough of the endometrium but can have the side effect of stimulating the intestines.

Bacterial Infection

A person who contracts a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract is six times more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome once the infection has passed. Youth, anxiety, depression, and prolonged fever are additional risk factors that can compound the person’s chances of getting the disorder. Experts speculate that the infection may alter the brain-gut response to stress and stimulation.


A lot of biological functions are hindered and even derailed by stress, and this includes the gastrointestinal system. While it is unclear exactly how stress can induce the development of IBS, there is a strong connection between the two as many people with generalized anxiety disorder have IBS and vice versa. It could be that stress upsets an already sensitive intestinal system and inhibits normal functioning.

Abnormal Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is a neural transmitter that delivers messages between the different parts of the body. Approximately 95% of the body’s serotonin rests in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Research indicates that people with irritable bowel syndrome have abnormal levels of serotonin in the GI tract which has been linked to increased sensitivity to pain in that area and problems with bowel movement and motility.

Celiac Disease

Some people with irritable bowel disorder may actually have a mild form of Celiac disease. This condition is characterized by the inability to digest gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Celiac disease is caused by an abnormal immune response. When a person eats gluten, the immune system’s response to the allergen damages the small intestine and causes symptoms similar to IBS. A blood test can confirm or rule out Celiac disease, or you can follow a gluten-free diet for two weeks and see if your symptoms persist or dissipate.

Other Possibilities

You may simply have a sensitive colon that reacts differently to certain foods and stress. Monitoring your food intake and making note of when you experience an IBS flare up can assist you with determining if this is the case. A malfunctioning epithelium, the lining of the colon, can also lead to a bout of diarrhea or constipation if the epithelium does not absorb enough or absorbs too much fluid from food passing through the intestines.

No matter what the cause of IBS is, there are several treatment options available to help you manage your condition. In particular, there are a few all-natural over-the-counter medications you can take that can help alleviate the symptoms of IBS without producing uncomfortable or harmful side effects. You can learn about these natural Ibs medications here.