Irritable bowel syndrome: Information and specialists for irritable bowel syndrome

Prof. Robert Ehehalt
Medical Author

Irritable bowel syndrome (also known as IBS) is a functional disorder of the digestive tract. It is quite common, estimated to affect 20-30% of all people in Europe.

Here you can find additional information and highly qualified specialists for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

ICD codes for this diseases: K58

Selected specialists for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome

Brief overview:

  • What is irritable bowel syndrome? A functional disorder of the digestive tract that affects about 20 to 30% of all people in Europe.
  • Risk factors: Infections of the gastrointestinal tract, disorders of intestinal motility, food intolerances, incorrect eating habits, stress and psychological strain, and possibly genetic predisposition.
  • Symptoms: Frequently, symptom-free phases alternate with phases of pronounced symptoms. Typical symptoms include: Abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, and others.
  • Diagnosis: The doctor makes a diagnosis after other diseases have been ruled out. Common examinations are: Blood work, stool test, abdominal ultrasound, colonoscopy, allergy tests, and food intolerance tests.
  • Treatment: The therapy is aimed at alleviating the symptoms. A change in diet, medication, exercise, and psychological support are important pillars.

Article overview

In functional clinical pictures, patients suffer from physical impairments. However, no organic causes can be found.

Many sufferers have symptoms such as abdominal pain and digestive disorders for which no doctor has been able to diagnose them. Although IBS is not dangerous, it can greatly affect patients' lives.

The disease occurs in all age groups, but predominantly in 35 to 50-year-olds. Women are affected twice as often as men. In Europe, about 20 to 30 percent of all people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.

What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

The symptoms of IBS can be mild or severe. In most sufferers, phases with high levels of symptoms alternate with symptom-free phases.

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may be similar to those of other diseases. Therefore, the doctor should rule out other diseases with the help of a thorough examination. Typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are:

Person sitzt auf der Toilette
Diarrhea and constipation are among the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome © s-motive | AdobeStock

IBS can be divided into three types.

In the constipation type, the primary symptom is constipation and the patient has rather infrequent bowel movements.

The diarrhea type has very soft to liquid stools and suffers from frequent diarrhea.

The third type of irritable bowel syndrome affects people who alternate between constipation and diarrhea.

Of course, some patients cannot be assigned to any of the three types.

In addition, symptoms such as

can occur.

If fever, weight loss, or blood in the stool are also symptoms, it is essential to see a doctor. In rare cases, a serious disease could be causing such symptoms.

Irritable bowel syndrome may occur together with other diseases. Certain diseases can also increase the likelihood of developing irritable bowel syndrome. These include, for example,

What are the causes of irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome can be triggered by many factors. The specific cause has not yet been determined. It used to be assumed that irritable bowel syndrome was a purely psychological disorder. Today it is known that several circumstances can contribute to its development.

The following are considered typical risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome

  • Infections of the gastrointestinal tract,
  • Disturbances in intestinal motility,
  • Food intolerances,
  • Poor eating habits, and
  • Stress and mental strain.

It is also possible that a genetic predisposition increases the likelihood of developing irritable bowel syndrome.

How is irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed?

There is no specific test to detect irritable bowel syndrome. However, various examinations can rule out other diseases and thus confirm the suspicion of irritable bowel syndrome.

A thorough medical history is taken at the beginning of the doctor's visit. This refers to a series of questions about the patient's medical history and possible family history. A food diary in which the patient records their meals and the type, duration, and severity of symptoms can also be very helpful.

The doctor will palpate the abdomen and listen to bowel sounds with a stethoscope. If there is a suspicion of a disease of the intestine, the doctor can palpate the rectum with their fingers (rectal examination).

The following tests are used to rule out other diseases:

  • Blood tests,
  • A stool test,
  • An ultrasound of the abdomen (sonography),
  • Colonoscopy,
  • Allergy tests, and
  • Tests for food intolerances (for example, lactose and fructose intolerance).

How is irritable bowel syndrome treated?

There is no causal therapy for irritable bowel syndrome, but there are numerous measures that help to alleviate the symptoms. The measures are very individual and depend on the type of complaint and the triggers.

As a rule, the treatment consists of

  • A dietary change,
  • Medication, and
  • Other measures such as exercise and psychological support.


Certain foods are poorly tolerated by patients with irritable bowel syndrome. These include foods that are high in fat, cause flatulence, or are spicy. They should therefore be eliminated from the affected person's menu as far as possible.

It can sometimes take a long time for the patient to test which foods increase the symptoms and which are part of the optimal diet.

As a general rule, frequent smaller meals at regular intervals are easier to digest than three large meals. In addition, eating should be done slowly and without rushing.

Digestion can work best when the body has enough fluid available. Many patients must therefore first get back into the habit of drinking enough fluid.

Completely abstaining from alcohol is advisable.


The doctor may prescribe certain medications for short-term relief, depending on the underlying symptoms. For example, drugs that reduce or stop the movement of the intestines help against diarrhea.

For constipation, laxatives can provide relief, but these medications should not be taken for long periods of time under any circumstances.

Painkillers are useful for severe abdominal cramps.

Many herbal remedies relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. For example,

  • Caraway,
  • Anise,
  • Fennel,
  • Chamomile, and
  • Peppermint (as a tea)

help provide relief from flatulence and abdominal pain.

Further measures

Since IBS is often aggravated by worry and stress, it is essential to improve one′s mental state.

Sports activities not only help to stimulate digestion but also have a positive impact on the psyche.

Regular relaxation techniques such as autogenic training, yoga, and meditation are suitable for balancing stress.

In the case of longer-term psychological problems, psychotherapy can be very effective and contribute to a more satisfying life.

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