Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome, which also is called IBS, can be uncomfortable and painful. MaineHealth has services to help ease your symptoms and improve function of your digestive tract. Talk to your primary care provider about your symptoms.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a digestive issue that affects the large intestines.

It does not cause damage to the intestines or other major health issues. But it can be a major source of discomfort. IBS can cause many symptoms that keep people from daily activities.

There are treatments to get back to normal.

Contact your provider if you think you have IBS.


The cause of IBS is unknown. Food digestion problems are associated with IBS.

Other things that increase risk of developing IBS include:

  • Being younger than 45 years old
  • Females are twice as likely to have IBS than males
  • Stress
  • Eating foods that irritate the bowels
  • Family history of IBS
  • Previous bowel infections

Medications can be prescribed by doctors to relieve symptoms.

Fiber supplements, laxatives, and probiotics can help improve digestive health.

A healthy diet and stress management can reduce reactions.

Avoid high-gas foods, gluten and dairy to reduce your risk of an episode.

IBS symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome causes a change in bowel habits. Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Fullness
  • Gas

Symptoms for IBS can be treated with lifestyle change or medication. Contact your provider to get help for irritable bowel syndrome.

Screening and diagnosing IBS

Providers diagnose a patient based on symptoms.

X-rays, blood tests and stool tests can be done to rule out other problems.

Colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies can help to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions with symptoms similar to IBS.