Irritable bowel

Irritable bowel

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Irritable bowel syndrome (RDS)

Of the Irritable bowel is one of the most common gastrointestinal diseases in the western industrialized nations. It is a functional bowel disorder without organic causes.

How does an irritable bowel develop?

The exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome (RDS) have not yet been clarified. It is known that the processes in the digestive tract in irritable bowel patients are significantly disturbed, but without a physical cause. Those affected suffer from dysfunction between the ENS (enteric nervous system) and the CNS (central nervous system). This means that in patients with RDS the intestine reacts much more to influences such as stress, fear or the like than in healthy people.

Irritable bowel: symptoms

There is a recurring abdominal pain that changes in strength, which can be both stabbing and cramp-like. In addition, those affected often suffer from flatulence. The stool frequency is different. Constipation (constipation) and diarrhea (diarrhea) may alternate. Patients are often plagued by the feeling of incomplete emptying after defecation, with the defecation usually bringing relief first. Mucus deposits often occur. Loud bowel sounds are also part of the RDS symptoms. It should also be noted that the complaints usually increase over the years.

In addition to the digestive-specific symptoms, there are usually non-specific general symptoms such as

  • general fatigue,
  • Exhaustion,
  • Sleep disorders,
  • A headache,
  • Depression,
  • Back pain,
  • Menstrual cramps,
  • Body aches,
  • Bladder complaints,
  • Fears.

Irritable bowel syndrome is not dangerous, but the symptoms in many patients significantly affect their quality of life. RDS also appears to affect mood significantly and increase the risk of depression and anxiety disorders.


Possible triggers of the RDS are:

  • genetic disposition,
  • Stress,
  • a weakened immune system,
  • wrong eating habits,
  • disturbed intestinal microbiome (intestinal flora),
  • Hormonal influences.


The exact causes of irritable bowel syndrome are currently unknown. However, factors related to its creation have been discovered:

  • Muscle contractions in the intestine: Muscle contractions of the intestinal walls have been observed in RDS, which last longer and are stronger than usual. These excessive contractions can lead to bloating and diarrhea.
  • Nervous system: Anomalies in the nervous system have been identified in some patients. This leads to poorer coordination of signals between the brain and intestine. As a result, the body reacts differently to changes in the digestive system.
  • Intestinal inflammation: People with RDS sometimes have an increased number of immune system cells in the intestine. Immune system reactions therefore have a particularly violent effect on the intestine.
  • Infections: Serious infectious diseases with viruses or bacteria can lead to an imbalance in the intestinal flora. For example, certain types of bacteria can spread excessively.
  • Disrupted gut microbiome: Latest studies indicate that the composition of the intestinal flora in healthy people differs from the microbiome in sick people. This could also play an important role in the development of RDS.


The irritable bowel belongs to the diagnosis of exclusion. This means that RDS can only be diagnosed if other organic diseases have been ruled out by appropriate examinations. A detailed medical history is important to make the diagnosis. A physical examination and palpation of the abdomen were followed by a rectal examination, if necessary. In addition, other examination methods such as ultrasound, gastrointestinal mirroring and possibly tests for food intolerance are often used to determine the causes of the disturbed processes in the digestive tract.

Irritable bowel: what helps? Prevention and relief

In order to protect yourself from irritable bowel syndrome or to alleviate the symptoms, the following measures have proven themselves:

  • psychotherapy: Therapy can be used to learn how to react to stress and how best to deal with it. This can cause a permanent reduction in symptoms.
  • Relaxation techniques: Learning and using relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic training can help to reduce stress.
  • Biofeedback: Electrical sensors help to get information about the body functions in order to get a better understanding of the body. For example, weak points or triggers can be uncovered.
  • Mindfulness training: This technique helps you focus on the moment and let go of worries and distractions.
  • Lifestyle changes: A healthy lifestyle with fiber-rich food, a lot of unsweetened hydration, regular exercise and sufficient sleep counteracts an irritable bowel.

Irritable bowel: treatment

So far, there is no standard therapy for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. In allopathy (conventional medicine), remedies for colic, constipation or diarrhea are used. Sometimes psychotropic drugs are used for irritable bowel treatment.

Naturopathic treatment can sometimes be lengthy, but it can often be promising. A great deal of attention is paid to nutrition. Frequently, patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome react to certain foods with increased symptoms. A diary is recommended here. in which the affected people enter the food and the resulting complaints so that they can avoid these foods in the future.

It is important to take your time for meals and chew them thoroughly. The hectic pace of eating increases the symptoms relatively often. Anise, fennel, caraway coriander and peppermint are used to calm the troubled intestine. Antroposophic medicine also has a number of treatment approaches that are extremely helpful, such as a preparation of different types of willow, which are supposed to bring the digestive organs into balance. Stress and fears, which mostly belong to the irritable bowel symptoms, have to be reduced. Relaxation techniques and massages help here. Even if classic homeopathy is scientifically controversial, some patients with irritable bowel syndrome trust the effect. (vb, sw)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Mayo Clinic: Irritable bowel syndrome (accessed: September 30, 2019),
  • Professional association of German internists e.V .: irritable bowel (retrieval: 30.09.2019),
  • Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG): Irritable bowel syndrome (accessed: September 30, 2019),

Video: What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome? IBS (August 2022).