Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the digestive system which causes individuals to battle unpleasant symptoms often including diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain and bloating.

  • Upsets bowel movement & abdominal comfort
  • Affects men and women of all ages
  • Managed with antispasmodic medication


Irritable Bowel Syndrome, more commonly referred to as IBS, is a highly common digestive system condition. It causes the gut to malfunction resulting in symptoms such as stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

Who does IBS affect?

Up to one in five people are thought to live with the condition in the UK. Women are more likely to have the condition than men, with symptoms usually first recognised by those in their twenties or thirties. There is no cure for the condition and those diagnosed usually have to live with IBS for the rest of their lives, although symptoms can improve over time. The severity of the condition ranges greatly amongst those diagnosed, flare ups can come and go and last for varying lengths of time.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

Symptoms of IBS can vary from one case to another, but among those more common are:

  • stomach pain or cramping
  • increased bowel frequency, or diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • bloatedness
  • passing wind more than usual
  • increased bowel urgency
  • and mucus when passing stool.

What causes IBS?

A direct cause for IBS is yet to be confirmed by experts. One characteristic of IBS is that under close examination, the gut may look perfectly normal. It is thought that there are links to the way in which the digestive system works that causes the symptoms described above. There may also be other factors such as problems with digesting certain foods and increased gut sensitivity. IBS symptoms are not constantly present and may increase or decrease over time depending on circumstances. Common triggers for flare ups include stress, fried or processed food, alcohol, fizzy drinks, caffeine and chocolate.

How is IBS diagnosed?

Most doctors will be able to diagnose IBS from your description of symptoms. However, they may still want to carry out a test of your stool and blood in order to rule out any underlying problems. Some people with IBS may notice improvements in their condition over time although this is fairly rare. Most individuals with IBS will experience periods where their symptoms are particularly bad but also periods of remission, where it might seem like they have overcome the syndrome when in fact it is just laying dormant only to return at some other time.

How is IBS treated?

Most doctors will be able to diagnose IBS from your description of symptoms. However, they may still want to carry out a test of your stool and blood in order to rule out any underlying problems. Many people with IBS will notice improvements in their condition as time goes on. Most individuals with IBS will experience periods where their symptoms are particularly bad but also periods of remission.

Those who experience digestive system problems should look to keep a food diary in order to try and identify specific foods or food groups that might be linked to a spike in symptoms. This can lead to a change in diet but if you know your triggers then you will be better equipped to try and avoid them.

Can medicine help?

Not every person diagnosed with IBS will require treatment. However, in cases where it is required, a doctor may prescribe a medication such as Mebeverine. This uses the active ingredient mebeverine hydrochloride which targets the gut muscles in order to help them relax and adopt more normal activity.

Types of Treatment

Once diagnosed with IBS you may be encouraged to keep a diet diary to try and pinpoint particular foods that trigger your symptoms. If you are able to narrow down a food type that is linked to your IBS then you might be able to manage your symptoms without medication.

There is treatment available for those dealing with severe cases of IBS. One option includes the antispasmodic tablet mebeverine which is used to better regulate the muscle movements in the gut.

How do they work?

IBS symptoms can be caused by the digestive system muscles moving too quickly or too slowly resulting in irregular bowel movements. The antispasmodic drug mebeverine contains the active ingredient mebeverine hydrochloride which works to calm the muscle spasms allowing them to work at a more normal pace.

What are the side effects?

Any medication can cause undesirable effects and this is no different with mebeverine. If you notice swelling of the lips, face or neck; difficulty breathing or a rash these could be an indication of an allergic reaction which will require emergency medical attention.

Can I take them with other medications?

Your doctor will need to assess your full medical profile before making a decision about the suitability of this product. You will need to inform them about any other treatments that you are taking or have recently taken. This includes prescribed and over-the-counter medication.

Question and Answers

What’s the difference between the medications?

Treatment for your IBS may differ depending on the symptoms that you are presenting with. Antispasmodic drugs are usually prescribed for those experiencing spasm-like stomach pains. Other treatment options might try and address constipation or diarrhoea symptoms.

Should I take Mebeverine?

Your GP or consultant will be able to help you determine whether or not treatment is necessary.

Are there different side effects?

This medication may cause side effects. The likelihood of developing a serious reaction is rare but is a possibility. You should always take your medication as directed by your doctor in order to minimise the chances of an adverse response.

Is it right for me?

Whether or not you take treatment will be decided upon by your doctor or consultant, following a review of your symptoms. They will initiate a prescription where appropriate.

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