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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    IBIS Australia aims to: - Assist people suffering IBS and their families in dealing with IBS. - Cooperate with the medical profession and where deemed … View Profile

    IBS affects the nerves and muscles of the bowel, and is classified as a functional gastrointestinal disorder. Nerves can become over sensitive and muscles may not work in unison, causing abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements. IBS never leads to or causes more serious conditions like colitis or bowel cancer.

  • 1


    Jon Gamble


    Jon is author of ‘Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome’ and “Obstacles to Cure: Toxicity, Deficiency & Infection” - two books for CAM practitioners. He specialises … View Profile

    We have identified 17 different types of IBS, all with a different cause. Therefore, when an illness is a ‘syndrome’, like IBS, it is a generic term for many different illnesses,  none of which are adequately diagnosed with conventional pathology tests. Good treatment equals good (or rather accurate) diagnosis.

  • 3


    Dr Andrew Sutherland

    Colorectal Surgeon (Bowel)

    I am a specialist colorectal surgeon treating a range of bowel diseases and am committed to providing the best of care for all patients. It … View Profile

    There is no proven underlying cause for Irritable Bowel Syndrome at present.  It is a syndrome characterised by abdominal bloating, pain or cramping, excessive wind, constipation and diarrhoea.  Individuals may experience all or only some of these symptoms.  Bleeding with passing a motion is not a symptom of IBS and may indicate more severe disease and should be investigated appropriately.  Obviously most people will experience the symptoms of IBS at some stage, but people who have persistent or severe symptoms can be considered to have IBS.  

    It is important to recognise that these symptoms are non-specific.  That is, they can be cause by a wide variety of conditions and diseases from IBS to coeliac disease, chronic infection (eg giardia), inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies or even bowel cancer.  As such IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion - it should only be made after more serious conditions have been excluded.  This is particularly the case if the symptoms have only developed recently or if you are over the age of 40.

  • 1


    Julie Markoska

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I am a Sydney based Accredited Nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietitian recognised by the Dietitians Association of Australia.I have a Bachelor of Science majoring in … View Profile

    I agree with Dr Sutherland that the symptoms of IBS are non-specific and other conditions must be ruled out before making a diagnosis of IBS. 

    There are three main types of IBS:

    • Constipation dominant IBS
    • Diarrhoea dominant IBS
    • Alternating constipation & diarrhoea IBS

    Recent research shows that in some people IBS is caused by several naturally occuring carbohydrates, known as ‘FODMAPs’ for short. Generally, FODMAPs are not absorbed properly in the small intestine digestive tract. The FODMAPs then end up in the large bowel where, in some people, they cause symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
    For many people with IBS, avoiding foods that are high in FODMAPs reduces IBS symptoms. If you would like to try a low FODMAP diet for your IBS it's best to speak with your doctor first and then find an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) that can help you identify which foods cause your symptoms.

    Find an APD
    Read more about FODMAPs and IBS here:

    Julie Markoska
    Accredited Practising Dietitian & Nutritionist

  • 1


    Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a chronic condition that you will need to manage long term.

    Even though signs and symptoms are uncomfortable, IBS — unlike ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease — doesn't cause changes in bowel tissue or increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

    Only a small number of people with irritable bowel syndrome have severe signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. Others will need medication and counseling.

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