Who Is at Risk for IBS?

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have digestive symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and often flare up in an unpredictable fashion. While the condition doesn’t cause permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract, it can significantly impact your quality of life.

What is IBS?

The term IBS refers to a collection of symptoms a patient experiences for at least three months. Those symptoms are:

There are four types of IBS.

IBS triggers

People with IBS often report that certain things worsen their symptoms. Here are some common IBS triggers.


Stress is bad news if you have IBS. It can make symptoms worse and increase the frequency and severity. Making a plan to reduce and manage stress is not only beneficial for IBS, it can improve your overall well-being.


Changes in hormones appear to trigger IBS symptoms. In fact, women often notice that their symptoms worsen during menstruation and menopause when changes in hormone levels are prominent.

Certain foods

Different foods may aggravate IBS symptoms. You may have a sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods.

Dairy, wheat, cabbage, beans, and citrus fruits are just a few foods known to aggravate symptoms in susceptible patients.

IBS risk factors

Doctors and researchers are working to fully understand factors that increase your risk of developing IBS. We’re aware of a few factors that are linked to an increased likelihood of developing the condition.


Women are more at risk than men of developing IBS. While the reason isn’t exactly known, researchers theorize that hormones may play a role.


IBS tends to strike for the first time during the teen years and when people are in their 40s. If you haven’t experienced IBS symptoms by your 40s, the likelihood of developing IBS is very low. That said, it’s possible for IBS to develop at any age.

Family history

Like many health conditions, having a close family member with IBS raises the chances that you’ll develop it as well. This is especially true if you have a parent or sibling with IBS.

Sensitivity to certain foods

Having existing food sensitivities puts you at a higher risk of developing IBS. If you currently have trouble with foods like dairy and wheat, you’re at an increased risk of developing IBS. Some patients are sensitive to certain types of sugar that are poorly absorbed in the intestinal tract. Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) commonly trigger IBS symptoms. Regularly consuming sugar alcohols is another important risk factor.

Certain medications

All medicines have side effects, and some medications can trigger IBS symptoms or make them worse. If you can pinpoint that your symptoms began around the same time that you started a new medication, discuss it with a health care provider.

Gastrointestinal infection

Some patients experience their first bout of IBS following a gastrointestinal infection. Certain species of bacteria and strains of viruses that cause gastrointestinal infections are linked to IBS in a subgroup of patients. Infections may alter nerves in the lining of the intestines, impacting gut mobility and sensation.

Managing IBS can seem challenging. With a well-implemented, individualized treatment plan, you can manage your symptoms and get relief from IBS. To learn more and to schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, call one of our offices in Elgin, South Elgin, or Lake in the Hills, Illinois.

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