Stomach Pain

Irritable Bowel Sydrome

What You Need to Know

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder or the large bowel, meaning the bowel doesn't work, or function, correctly. IBS is not a disease, but a group of symptoms.

What are the symptoms or IBS?

The main symptoms of IBS are

  • Pain or discomfort in the abdomen, often relived by a bowel movement
  • Chronic diarrhea, constipation, or both

Other symptoms include

  • Whitish mucus in the stool
  • A swollen or bloated abdomen
  • The feeling that you have not finished a bowel movement

Women with IBS often have more symptoms during their menstrual periods.

How will I know if I have IBS?

  • Your doctor may diagnose IBS based on your symptoms. No specific test for IBS exists, but your doctor may do some tests to rule out other health problems that can cause the same symptoms.

What can I do about IBS?

BS has no cure but you can take some steps to relieve symptoms. You might have to try a few different things to see what works best for you. Your doctor can help you find the right treatment plan, which may include:

  • Avoiding foods that can trigger symptoms, such as fatty foods, milk products, and carbonated drinks
  • Eating foods with fiber
  • Eating four or five small meals instead of three big meals
  • Taking medicines that help relieve symptoms
  • Reducing emotional stress


Points to Remember

  • Constipation is a condition in which bowel movements occur less frequently than usual or stools tend to be hard, dry, and difficult and painful to pass.
  • Children often develop constipation as a result of stool withholding.
  • A child with constipation should see a doctor if symptoms last for more than 2 weeks.
  • A child should also see a doctor if constipation is accompanied by symptoms that may indicate a more serious health problem.
  • Constipation is treated by changing diet, taking laxatives, and adopting healthy bowel habits.

Hope through Research

  • The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases conducts and supports basic and clinical research into many digestive disorders, including constipation in children.
  • Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help other by contributing to medical research. For more information about current studies, visit

For More Information

Other publications about constipation are available from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse at, including

  • Constipation
  • What I need to know about Constipation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children
  • What I need to know about Hirschsprung Disease