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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the name given to a condition which causes upset intestines for a long period of time. It is very unpleasant to the sufferer but it is quite harmless and does not lead to more serious complaints.

The symptoms of IBS vary from one person to another and from day to day. A person will be diagnosed with IBS if he/she has three or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Bloating
- Constipation
- Diarrhoea
- Alternating diarrhoea and constipation
- Nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Tummy rumbling
- Flatulence
- Mucus in stools
- Indigestion
- Constant tiredness
- Frequent urination
- Low back pain
- Painful intercourse in women

The function of the small intestine and bowel is to keep the waste matter in the body moving steadily downwards. Usually this happens without us being aware of it but if the rhythm breaks down or the bowel becomes over sensitive it can cause a lot of discomfort. If the system keeps failing in this way it turns into IBS. The most common cause is a previous gastro-intestinal infection or a malfunction of the nervous system. Some of the most common triggers of IBS are:
- Intestinal infection
- Gynaecological problems in women
- Drugs
- Certain food (dairy, wheat, coffee, fizzy drinks)
- Stress

About twenty percent of the population suffer from IBS and it is more common about young adults; half of the sufferers develop it before the age of 35. Research shows that sufferers are more likely to be people who find difficulty in coping with life and have a tendency to be depressed and anxious. Rather than these traits being the cause of IBS, it could be the other way round. After years of putting up with this uncomfortable disorder it is understandable to become irritable and fed up.

IBS seems to run in families but it is uncertain whether it is passed on through the genes or through sharing the same diet and lifestyle. Sufferers often develop the condition while having to cope with a difficult situation at home.

There are several ways to treat IBS. These include:
- Laxatives
- Anti-diarrhoea preparations
- Anti-spasm drugs
- Nerve-blocking drugs
- Peppermint Oil
- Hypnosis

Although IBS is a condition of the gut, the mind might be able to remedy it. If you learn to deal with stress and relax when symptoms appear you may find that IBS disappears on its own.