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What causes IBS? Is IBS genetic? Is IBS contagious? 

Frustrated Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers often have a lot of questions about where their disorder came from, and what they did to be blessed with unpredictable bowels that cycle between diarrhea and constipation at a whim.

Unfortunately, what causes IBS is still not clear, but what we do know is that IBS is NOT contagious, and it is NOT inherited. This means you don’t have to worry about accidentally giving it to your friends or passing it on to your children. We may not know exactly what causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but there are a few factors that the medical community suspects are at work.


Muscle Contractions in the Intestines

According to the Mayo Clinic, IBS could be linked to issues with your digestive organs, specifically the ones that help move food through the system. As the food you eat passes through your GI tract, these muscles contract to help push it through. What causes IBS symptoms is when these contractions are either slower and weaker, or stronger and longer than what’s considered normal. Strong contractions lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea; weaker ones can cause dry, constipated bowel movements, all of which are common symptoms of IBS. 


Stress, Anxiety and Past Trauma

If you feel like stress, anxiety, and just general nerves are causing your IBS to act up, you’re definitely not just making things up. In fact, there’s something called the brain-gut axis that’s responsible for the connection between your brain and belly. The brain-gut axis works both ways, sending a trigger warning to your stomach whenever you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, which causes many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with IBS. Stress-related diarrhea and constipation are really just another IBS flare up. This is why you may notice that during stressful patches in your life, you may be more susceptible to pesky IBS symptoms. 

Related Article: How to Calm a Nervous Stomach


A Previous Bacterial Infection in the GI Tract

If you’ve experienced an intestinal or stomach infection, that could be why you ended up with long-term Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This type of IBS, called Post-Infectious Irritable Bowel Syndrome (PI-IBS), affects about 6-17% of individuals in the general IBS population. The initial infection is usually bacterial rather than viral; so if you had a bout of salmonella, for example, you could be more likely to develop PI-IBS.


WebMD suggests that hormones could be linked to IBS. The connection isn’t completely clear, but it is a fact that women are more prone to this disorder. After all, estrogen and testosterone dictate a lot in our bodies. How quickly food moves through the system, how we handle pain and cramps, and the levels of inflammation within the system are all controlled by hormones to some extent. 

So Much Left to Discover

It’s amazing that for such a common disorder, there’s so much that we still need to learn about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We’re still figuring out where it came from, what you can do to alleviate symptoms and dividing it up into categories: 


IBS-D: Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea 

IBS-C: Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation

IBS-M: Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Mixed Bowel Habits

PI-IBS: Post-Infectious Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Everybody has a theory on where IBS came from. Among the ones not listed here are poor diet, lack of exercise, food allergies or sensitivities, inflammation in the GI tract, disturbances in microflora, and we’re barely scratching the surface here! 

Are you suffering from IBS and looking for something that can help reduce symptoms? Find out if the Low FODMAP diet is right for you.


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