IBS – Sensitive Bowel


IBS means that there is a disturbance in how the gut works and its feel. At IBS you have stomach upset and diarrhea or constipation. The symptoms can sometimes be very troublesome, but they can often be reduced by avoiding certain foods or by using non-prescription drugs.

IBS is an abbreviation of English’s irritable bowel syndrome and means about easily irritable or hypersensitive bowel. It is also called colon irritable and functional bowel problems.

Symptoms of IBS

In order to be diagnosed with IBS, you must have a stomach ache and at the same time be afflicted by any of the following symptoms:

  • That the pain changes when you poop, it can either be aggravated or relieved.
  • That you have constipation or diarrhea, or that it alternates between these two.
  • That you poop irregularly.

In order to be diagnosed with IBS, you must have had a problem for more than three months.

Stomach ache

You may have stomach aches in different places and in different ways. For example, you may get a sharp stomach crunch under the rib arches, or a more diffuse and grinding pain throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Often you get more pain after eating.

You can get a lot of pain because it gets in the gut of gases. Read more about gases in the stomach here.

Constipation and diarrhea

The texture of the pouch often alternates between being hard and loose at IBS.

Sometimes it can be a hard lump that comes first when you poop and then comes diarrhea-like poop. You may also have only diarrhea or constipation. The bag can also be slimy.

Read more about constipation here.

Baja more or less often

One symptom of IBS is that it irks regularly. You may have to poop several times a day, but it can also go a couple of days without having to poop.

You may also feel like you need to poop again, even though you’ve just been to the toilet. Sometimes you may have diarrhea that you are in a hurry to get to the toilet in time.

When and where should I seek care?

Contact a health center l if you think you have IBS and especially if any of the following is true of you:

  • You are over 50 years old and you get symptoms from your stomach that you have not had before.
  • You lose weight quickly or have less desire to eat.
  • You need to go to the bathroom at different times than you usually do, or if the texture of the poo has changed.

Wait until it becomes every day if it’s a weekend. You can contact many receptions by logging in.

If it’s in a hurry

Contact a health care center or an on-call clinic as soon as any of the following is true of you:

  • You suddenly get a lot of stomach aches.
  • You vomit and the stomach contents look like coffee grounds or contain blood.
  • You have black or bloody poop.

If closed, seek care at an emergency room.

What can I do for myself?

What symptoms of IBS you have and what relieves them differ between people. You might be better off by something that doesn’t work for another at all. Below are various suggestions on what you can do to relieve the symptoms.

Write a food diary

Write a food diary so you can more easily discover what you are getting worse at. In the diary write what you eat, drink and how your symptoms are affected. Then you can also see how the symptoms are affected during the day, or if there are specific events or situations that make you worse.

Avoid certain foods and drinks

Many people find that they get better if they avoid eating special foods or certain foods.

There is no dietary advice that helps everyone because the symptoms are different. You need to find out for yourself what food you can eat and what works well for you.

Fat foods and strong spices are examples of foods that can cause increased problems. Coffee and alcohol also affect the function of the gastrointestinal tract and can make you worse. Avoid or eat and drink fewer quantities if you notice that you are experiencing more symptoms of a particular food or drink.

Feel free to talk to a doctor or a dietician about what to eat and what to avoid. IBS causes no nutritional deficiency if you do not eat an overly one-sided diet and less food due to the inconvenience.

Eat less of gaseous food if you have a lot of gases in your stomach. Examples of gas-forming foods are cabbage, onions, peppers, and beans. Also, avoid eating and drinking light products that contain sweeteners. The sweetener increases the amount of gas in the stomach. Here you can read more about what you can do to reduce the amount of gas in your stomach.

So-called FODMAP diets have been found to alleviate the symptoms of some. FODMAP is a diet where you eat foods that contain little or none of the carbohydrates that the gut is hard to break down. Talk to a dietitian if you want to try eating according to FODMAP. It can be difficult to understand what is good to eat and what to avoid.

Choose lactose-free products if you are sensitive to lactose.

Eat a little and often

For many, it helps to eat smaller amounts of food but more often. Try to eat regularly, for example by planning snacks. Eat slowly in peace and chew well.

Choose the right kind of fiber

Fiber-rich foods are good if you have constipation, but it does not reduce stomach pain. If you eat a lot of fiber-rich food you can even get more trouble. Try to figure out how much fiber your stomach can withstand. You also need to drink more water when eating high fiber foods, so as not to get constipated.

Feel free to choose so-called soluble fibers that are found in fruits and vegetables, for example. Soluble fibers can relieve the symptoms, while so-called insoluble fibers can give you more trouble. Insoluble fibers mainly come from cereals and are found in whole grain products.

Try probiotics

If you have a lot of diarrhea, so-called probiotics can help. These are foods and products that contain bacterial culture, in order to strengthen the gut flora. You can buy probiotic food products at the grocery store, or capsules with probiotics at pharmacies. There are various compositions on probiotics, but it is not known which one has the best effect.

Go to the toilet regularly

It is good if you get into the habit of pooping regularly. You should not refrain from pooping if you feel you need to do so. Take the time you need when you are in the toilet, so you can get ready. When you are in the toilet, do not stress.

Be physically active

Many people feel that they are better off being physically active. There is no evidence that physical activity reduces the symptoms of IBS, but it often makes you feel better overall.

Here you can read more about physical activity.


Stress and anxiety can worsen the symptoms. Try to find what stresses and worries you. Write a list of what makes you feel worse, it can then be easier to do something about it.

Learn more about IBS

For many, the anxiety and stress decrease as they learn about IBS, what they can eat and how to live to reduce their inconvenience. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions, or make an appointment with a dietitian who can tell you more. A dietician can tell you more about the relationship between food and health.

Pay attention to herbal remedies

In some herbal remedies, there may be substances that irritate the bowel and can cause diarrhea. Always ask at a pharmacy or at the store before buying a herbal remedy, if it causes diarrhea.

Treatment of IBS

The treatment of IBS consists largely of understanding your illness, for example, which foods cause problems and what you can do to feel better. There is no drug that cures IBS, but there are drugs that relieve the hassle. There are both prescription-free and prescription drugs. There are both prescription-free and prescription drugs.

Prescription-free drugs

There are various types of prescription drugs that can relieve the symptoms. Which type of drug is best for you depends on which symptom is most troublesome.

It is important that you use the right kind of medicine and the right way. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure.

Medication for constipation

So-called bulk agents can help if you are often constipated. Bulk is a form of laxative that you can use for longer periods.

There are some laxatives that can make the trouble worse, so-called intestinal laxatives. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you want to take such medicine.

In the chapter Treatment in the text Constipation, you can read more about bulk drugs and other non-prescription drugs for constipation. 

Drugs for gas problems

Medicines containing the active substance simethicone are good if you often have stomach or stomach ache due to gases.

Read more about simethics in the chapter Treatment in the text Gas trouble.

Medicines for diarrhea

You can use stopping medicines that contain the active substance loperamide if you have severe diarrhea. But loperamide can also cause you to become constipated. Talk to your doctor if you need to use stopping medicines for an extended period of time.

Medication for pain and vomiting

Iberogast is a herbal medicine that can help if you have a stomach ache, feel unwell or if you feel bloated in the stomach.

Medicines with prescription

Some medicines for depression can relieve stomach upset. The dose is then lower than in the treatment of depression. Antidepressants can also make you feel better overall.

There are also prescription drugs for IBS with severe constipation.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, KBT

For some, cognitive behavioral therapy, KBT, may be helpful. KBT is about making you feel and work better by changing your behavior and how you perceive yourself and your surroundings.

Important to understand

In order to be able to participate in your care and make decisions, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand. You can also ask to have the information printed to read it peacefully.

You may have the right to receive interpreting assistance. You may also have the right to receive interpreting assistance in the event of hearing loss.

What is IBS?

IBS is an intestinal disorder that prevents the gastrointestinal tract from working and moving properly. The intestine is also more sensitive to tension, for example by gases. These disorders are called functional disorders. Most people have had IBS for several years, with many different and different strong symptoms.

Many people with IBS also have sensitive stomachs, called dyspepsia. Symptoms of the sensitive stomach include pain in the upper abdomen, feeling stretched about the stomach and being quickly measured. Some sometimes have sensitive stomach and IBS at the same time, sometimes just one or the other.

Most often, IBS develops when you are between 20 and 40 years of age, but IBS can develop regardless of age.

IBS cannot develop into cancer or any other serious illness. Nor can IBS be cured with an operation.

Depending on the texture of the poop, IBS is divided into three subgroups:

  • constipating mixing IBS
  • diarrhea-IBS
  • mixed IBS.

Different names

There is no good name for IBS in Europe. Functional intestinal disorders are often used because there is a disruption in how the intestine works. Colon irritabile is another name for IBS, it can sometimes be spelled colon irritabile.

What does IBS depend on?

It is unclear what IBS is due to. Probably there are several things that together cause IBS:

  • Changes in the way the intestinal muscles and nerves work.
  • How the nerves to and from the brain interact with the intestine.
  • Stress and worry.

What happens in the body?

When you swallow food, it goes through the gastrointestinal tract. Along with the bowel, there are muscles that work in a special way. This means that the contents of the intestine are mixed and that it is conveyed through the intestine properly.

The workings of the gut are controlled by an interaction between nerves and hormones, both in the gut and via nerve pathways to and from the brain. At IBS, there is an increased sensitivity in the nerves, and this can make the gut feel extra sensitive or irritated.

The increased sensitivity or irritation can be found throughout the gastrointestinal tract, even in the esophagus and in the stomach. That is why you can also feel sick at IBS. Other organs may also have increased sensitivity, such as the genitals and the urinary tract.

The inconvenience is greatest during the day and when you have eaten. That’s because that’s when the guts work.

Read more about the gastrointestinal tract in the text How the digestive organs work.


When you come to the doctor you will be told about your complaints. For example, the doctor may ask:

  • Where in the stomach are you in pain?
  • When do you get more hurt?
  • Do you have diarrhea or are you constipated, or do you switch between these two?
  • Have you seen blood in the stool?

The doctor feels on your stomach and you may also submit blood tests and stools.

At IBS, the samples look normal, but if there is something else that is causing your problems, the samples can help find out what. You may also need to have the rectum examined with a resectoscope and the colon examined with colonoscopy. 

Sometimes the colon can be examined with a computed tomography instead of a colonoscopy. Computed tomography is a form of x-ray.

Other conditions and diseases that have similar symptoms

Conditions that can cause symptoms similar to IBS may be any of the following:

  • Celiac disease also called gluten intolerance.
  • Lactose intolerance.
  • So-called inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

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