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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is unknown. However, most experts believe that it may be caused by a number of interrelated factors. Possible factors include:

  • an abnormality with how the muscles move food through the digestive tract,
  • having digestive organs that are particularly sensitive to pain,
  • a malfunctioning immune system,
  • a problem with how the central nervous system controls the digestive system,
  • an unusual response to infection, and
  • environmental, dietary, and genetic factors that are as yet unknown.

Psychological factors in IBS

There is a great deal of evidence that psychological factors play an important role in IBS. This is not to suggest that IBS is 'all in the mind' because the symptoms people experience are very real.

Changes in emotional states, such as stress, or depression, often cause a flare-up of symptoms. IBS is also more common in people who have experienced a previous traumatic experience.

How you think and feel can have an important effect on your body. When you are feeling stressed, or depressed, your body undergoes chemical changes and it is possible that these changes can affect how your digestive system works, making the symptoms of IBS worse.

This is why psychological treatments, such as relaxation therapy, are often effective in helping to control the symptoms of IBS.

view information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome on www.nhs.co.uk »

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