Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common disorder, affecting one in five people in this country. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine explains the importance of identifying the disorder’s uncomfortable symptoms.

“There are no X-rays, blood tests or scans that will give you the diagnosis,” said Dr. Waqar Qureshi, professor of medicine and clinical chief of gastroenterology at Baylor. “The diagnosis is based on certain clinical criteria known as the Rome Criteria that diagnoses IBS with a high degree of certainty.”

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that has no cure. Fortunately, IBS does not lead to cancer or other serious diseases. 

Irritable bowel syndrome’s symptoms include gas, bloating, abdominal pain or discomfort and change in bowel habits. Some people with the disorder might experience constipation, and others may have diarrhea – or both alternating. Qureshi recommends consulting with your primary care physician or a gastroenterologist if you have been experiencing the symptoms.

“The abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea may affect people’s lifestyles to varying degrees,” he said. “The treatment is based on relieving the predominant symptoms with smooth muscle relaxants, probiotics, diet modification and pain management.”

The causes of irritable bowel syndrome are unknown. Sometimes it may follow a bout of infection or inflammation, said Qureshi.  It can affect anyone but it tends to affect women more than men, he added.

For people with the disorder, education on the types of foods that should be avoided is a key component, said Qureshi. There are certain foods, such as fructose, lactose, and polyols that can worsen the disorder. He recommends exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet and managing your stress. These tips will also help you avoid other health issues down the road.