Symptoms and causes

Symptoms and causes

What is it?

The English-language literature mentions irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This symptom can be found often at the practice of a gastroenterologist. These are a number of abdominal symptoms that have to do with the peristalsis (propulsion of the intestinal contents by the contractions of the intestinal muscles) of the gastrointestinal system.

Symptoms and complaints

Symptoms can include: abdominal pain during a bowel movement, constipation and/or diarrhoea, gas formation, abdominal swelling, bloating and anal loss of mucus. Weight loss usually does not occur with this condition.


The cause of the disorder is unknown. We do know that the intestinal nervous system and the intestinal hormone system react more sensitively in IBS patients. This hypersensitivity is sometimes caused by a gastrointestinal infection that sometimes persists. Psychological and social factors very often play a triggering and maintaining role.

People who have irritable bowel syndrome do not run a higher risk of developing a malignant bowel disease.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis and treatment

Research and diagnosis

Other important conditions can cause the same symptoms as IBS, such as: tumours, inflammatory bowel diseases, parasitic or infectious conditions, lactose intolerance (intolerance to milk products) and other less common conditions. These diseases must be ruled out. There are no studies that prove IBS with certainty. The 'typical story' of the patient and the negative technical tests point in the direction of IBS.


The approach involves determining a correct diagnosis and finding the possible provocative factors together with the patient. Antispasmodics can help treat the symptoms. Finding the psycho-social causes with the help of psychological counselling can also often make the disorder more bearable.

Participation in a clinical study is a way for some patients to access the very latest treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Treatment centres and specialisations
Digestive Centre

Latest publication date: 17/05/2023
Supervising author: Dr Vanderstraeten Erik