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A to Z: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

May also be called:Nervous Stomach or Spastic Colon

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal disorder that can cause cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. It is sometimes called a “nervous stomach” or a “spastic colon.”

More to Know

The specific cause of IBS is unknown, although it tends to run in families. People of all ages can get IBS but it often first appears in the teen years or early adulthood.

Certain foods (like milk, chocolate, caffeine, greasy foods, fast foods, and spicy foods) can trigger IBS, as can emotional stress, hormonal changes, infections, and physical trauma.

There’s no cure for IBS, but many things can help reduce symptoms, including dietary changes, stress management, and regular exercise. A doctor also may recommend medications such as laxatives, antidiarrheals, muscle relaxants, or antidepressants.

Keep in Mind

Irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t cause any long-term harm, but it can affect quality of life. People with IBS should talk with a doctor about ways to manage IBS symptoms so that they can lead active and healthy lives.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.