Irritable Bowel Syndrome Ibs Causes

Despite being one of the most common digestive disorders to afflict the population of the Western world, medical research has yet to establish a specific cause for irritable bowel syndrome.

However, much progress has been made in recent years to banish, once and for all, the notion that it is an “imaginary” illness that affects only the emotionally vulnerable. Biological causes of irritable bowel syndrome have been identified and it can be triggered by a number of factors.

Bowel Sensitivity

Research has established that patients suffer from a higher than normal level of bowel sensitivity. This sensitivity can trigger a reaction that, in turn, causes symptoms such as abdominal pain and muscle spasms.

Emotions and IBS

An important distinction must be made: Although stress does not cause IBS, it can trigger a flare-up of symptoms.

In people who suffer from a combination of stress and IBS, symptoms become particularly exacerbated following a heavy meal. This is explained by the fact that eating causes the colon to contract. Under normal circumstances, this triggers an urge to open the bowel within approximately thirty to sixty minutes. In sufferers, however, this urge is heightened and may lead to abdominal cramps and bowel evacuation within a much shorter interval.

Note, however, that stress and emotional trauma can also temporarily impact bowel function in people who do not suffer from IBS.

Bacteria: Causes of IBS?

Research documented in an article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (December 2001), entitled “Eradication of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Reduces Symptoms of IBS,” has identified a possible link between bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine and symptoms similar to those of IBS. In a study of 157 patients who were treated with antibiotics for bacterial overgrowth, 78 percent subsequently witnessed a reduction in their symptoms.


The jury is still out as to whether hormones influence IBS, particularly in the case of women who have noticed changes in symptoms at specific phases of their menstrual cycle. For example, premenstrual bloating appears to be considerably more pronounced in women with IBS. Further research is required to determine whether a link exists between estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline and irritable bowel syndrome.


Beers, M.H.,