IBS explained

IBS – or Irritable Bowel Syndrome – is a long-term condition that affects your bowels. While many people have digestive problems – such as bloating, gas and cramps – people with IBS suffer from these symptoms constantly.

Other common IBS symptoms include abdominal pain, and chronic diarrhoea or constipation, or both. The symptoms – and their intensity – vary from person to person. And even though these symptoms become a part of everyday life, they do not cause damage to the digestive system, nor do they lead to serious diseases such as bowel cancer.

IBS is quite common, developing in one in five Australians, usually starting in their twenties, and is twice as common in women as it is in men. Unfortunately, the exact cause of IBS is not known, but it is believed that increased gut sensitivity and problems digesting food play a part, as does stress.

While there is no cure for IBS, you can often reduce your symptoms by making such diet and lifestyle changes:

  • identifying and avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms
  • reducing your stress levels
  • changing the amount of fibre in your diet (increase for constipation, decrease for diarrhoea)
  • exercising regularly.


IBS can be quite distressing and can significantly affect your daily life, including your mental health. If this is the case, doctors may prescribe medicines to help manage the symptoms, such as:

  • anti-diarrhoeal medicines
  • pain relievers
  • constipation medicines
  • medicines to ease cramping
  • antidepressants for pain and depression.


If you suspect you have IBS, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis, as it could be something else, and get an individual treatment plan to help manage your symptoms.

Read more about IBS at WebMD.

Related articles:
Bowel habits – what’s normal and what’s not
Tips to reduce your bowel cancer risk

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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