Characteristics of irritable colon

This article was endorsed by Ahmed Zayed - Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from Alexandria University

What is irritable colon or  irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable colon is a non inflammatory disease consisting of an hypersensitivity of the colon that produces a series of unpleasant reactions, especially after eating and at times when the person is nervous or stressed.

It is a type of reaction involving exaggerated contraction of this part of the intestine that causes cramps and pain to people who have it, and produces diarrhea, constipation or both.

Despite these unpleasant symptoms, studies of the bowel does not reveal any physical abnormality, so the disease is diagnosed by its symptoms.

In addition to irritable bowel, this disease is known by many names, for example, irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, intestinal neurosis, colitis, indigestion, nervous or functional colitis.

Many patients suffer it in silence without being diagnosed or without visiting the doctor.

Whom does irritable colon affect to?

Irritable colon definition

Irritable colon definition

IBS affects a large number of people, being twice the proportion in women than in men. In most cases it begins to emerge from adolescence and before the person reaches the age of 35, although it is possible to be diagnosed at 50.

Irritable bowel appears more frequently in people with tension headache (stress), thyroid disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, leaky bowel syndrome and interstitial cystitis (painful bladder).

Many patients suffer in silence without being diagnosed or without having visited the doctor.

In the United States (USA) the prevalence of this disease among the population is 17-20%, in the United Kingdom it is 17-22%, Spain 10%, Italy 9%, Australia 13% and in a In Bangladesh, the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome reached 33%.

Types of irritable colon

There are three basic types of irritable bowel:

  • Light irritable colon: it presents occasional symptoms. It is not a reason to stop or drastically change work habits or emotional life.
  • Moderate irritable colon:It may involve changes in habits or emotional life. Sometimes the patient must stop working.
  • Severe irritable colon: it presents symptoms such as pain or the need to constantly go to the bathroom which leads to big changes in mood and personality and great difficulties to work or lead a normal life.

How do I know I have irritable colon or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable colon can reveal itself:

  • Intestinal Pain that decreases after defecating.
  • Urgent need to defecate.
  • Defecation with soft mucus.
  • Sensation of feeling full even after defecating.
  • Flatulences or gas
  • Swelling.
  • 26% of people with irritable bowel may have lactose intolerance.
  • 11% may have celiac disease or sensitivity to non-celiac wheat (SGNC)

It is considered that at least two of the previous symptoms must be present for 12 weeks (consecutive or not) and in the last 12 months. The diagnostic criteria are gathered in the Rome Criteria document of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Causes of irritable colon or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Main causes of irritable bowel. The disease has a strong component of nervous origin.

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is caused by changes in intestinal peristalsis. Peristalsis is the muscular movements that occur in the intestines to move food through it until they are transported to the rectum to be expelled to the outside.

A “normal” bowel produces a more uniform and controlled peristaltic rhythm.

For people affected by IBS, the contractions may occur in greater numbers leading to an excessive increase in bowel movements, with their need to go to the bathroom. Other times, the number of contractions may be abnormally low, causing bouts of constipation.

The causes of these changes in the intestinal regularity have been and continue being very discussed, attributed to different factors or a possible combination among all of them. Between the main ones we would mention the following:

  • Emotional causes: Stress, anxiety, nervousness or depression. They produce a worsening of the symptoms of the irritable intestine.
  • Digestive diseases: The presence of transitional or other inflammatory bowel diseases may occasionally be responsible for developing the disorder: perforated bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis.
  • An inadequate diet: The presence of a lowfiber diet or inadequate food intake or not tolerated by the affected person may trigger this syndrome. (More information on “Diet for the irritable colon” in the listing above).
  • Genetic causes
  • Use of laxatives: Some experts believe that regular use of laxatives leads to changes in the behavior of the bowel that can promote the onset of this syndrome.


irritable bowel syndrome test

A test to evaluate irritable bowel syndrome

The diagnosis of this disorder is carried out through a correct evaluation of the symptoms mentioned above.

The doctor may need to perform a visual examination of the bowel (colonoscopy and / or endoscopy) to rule out colon cancer, especially when this syndrome occurs in people over 50 years.

This test may also be necessary to rule out the existence of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory disease that has similar symptoms.

Another test to be performed is the lactose breath test to determine if there is milk intolerance.

*Related information:

Irritable bowel with constipation

Irritable bowel with diarrhea

Are antidepressants suitable?

Antidepressants must be prescribed by a doctor and the person who takes them must go to the periodic controls for their review.

In some studies, fluoxetine has not been shown to be effective in the treatment of irritable bowel. Other types of antidepressants such as tricyclics and paroxetine have reduced evidence to improve abdominal pain. You should consult with a doctor and avoid self-medication.

* More information: Medicines for irritable bowel syndrome

Natural treatment of irritable bowel

Psychotherapy is highly recommended as it is considered that this disease has a strong link with the nevus state and the experience of emotions, so it is recommended to go to a qualified psychologist.

To reduce stress  relaxation techniques are recommended.

At the same time, the advice of a dietitian nutritionist is recommended, desirably with knowledge of nutritional coaching.

punto rojo More information on irritable colon

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

29 July, 2020

Other interesting articles

This material is for informational purposes only. In case of doubt, consult the doctor.
"Botanical" is not responsible for damages caused by self-medication.

Botanical-online is an informative page that describes, among other topics, the traditional uses of plants from a therapeutic point of view. Their descriptions do not replace professional advice. Botanical-online is not responsible for self-medication and recommends consulting with the physician.