Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Orange County, CA

Irritable bowel syndrome in San Marcos, CA

A picture of Dr. Mark Stengler

What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a group of symptoms that impact your digestive system. It's a common but uncomfortable gastrointestinal disorder. Individuals with IBS get excessive gas, abdominal pain and cramps.

Who is at risk for developing IBS?

The condition usually occurs in individuals in their late teens to early 40s. Women can be twice as likely than men to get IBS. IBS may happen to multiple family members.

You might be at higher risk if you have:

  • Family history of IBS
  • Emotional stress, tension or anxiety
  • Food intolerance
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Serious digestive tract infection

What triggers IBS?

If you have IBS, you may have noticed that certain things produce symptoms. Typical triggers include some foods and medication. Psychological stress can also be a trigger. Some researchers suggest that IBS is the gut's reaction to life's stressors.

What are the sources of IBS?

Researchers do not exactly know what causes IBS. They believe a combination of factors can cause IBS, including:

  • Dysmotility: Problems with how your GI muscles contract and move food through the GI tract.
  • Visceral hypersensitivity: Extra-sensitive nerves in the GI tract.
  • Brain-gut dysfunction: Miscommunication between nerves in the brain and gut.

What are IBS symptoms?

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps, typically in the lower half of the abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Bowel movements that are harder or looser than normal
  • Diarrhea, constipation or rotating between the two
  • Excess gas
  • Mucus in your poop (may look whitish)

Women with IBS may find that symptoms flare up during their periods. These symptoms often happen again and again, which can make you feel stressed or upset. As you learn management techniques and gain control over flare-ups, you'll begin to feel better, physically and mentally.

How is IBS diagnosed?

If you've been having uncomfortable GI symptoms, see your doctor. The first step in diagnosing IBS is a medical history and a physical exam. Your provider will ask you about your symptoms:

  • Do you have pain related to bowel movements?
  • Do you notice a change in how often you have a bowel movement?
  • Has there been a change in how your poop looks?
  • How often do you have symptoms?
  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Have you been sick or had a stressful event in your life lately?

Depending on your symptoms, you may need other tests to confirm a diagnosis. Blood tests, stool samples and X-rays can help rule out other disorders that mimic IBS.

What is IBS treatment?

No particular therapy works for everyone, but most people with IBS can find a treatment that works for them. Your doctor will tailor your IBS treatment plan for your needs. Regular treatment options include dietary as well as lifestyle changes. A dietitian can help you create a diet that fits your life.

Many people find that with these changes, symptoms improve:

Dietary changes:

  • Increase fiber in your diet-- eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts.
  • Include supplemental fiber to your diet, such as Metamucil ® or Citrucel ®. Drink plenty of water-- eight 8-ounce glasses per day.
  • Avoid caffeine (from coffee, chocolate, teas and sodas).
  • Limit cheese and milk. Lactose intolerance is more prevalent in individuals with IBS. Make sure to get calcium from other sources, such as broccoli, spinach, salmon or supplements.
  • Try the low FODMAP diet, an eating plan that can help improve symptoms.

Activity changes:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Try relaxation methods.
  • Eat smaller meals more often.
  • Record the foods you eat so you can identify which foods trigger IBS flare-ups. Common triggers are red peppers, green onions, red wine, wheat and cow's milk.

Medical changes:

  • Your health care provider might prescribe antidepressant medications if you have depression and anxiety along with considerable abdominal pain.
  • Other medicines can help with diarrhea, constipation or abdominal pain.
  • Probiotics may be an option for you. These "good bacteria" can help improve symptoms.

Speak with your provider if your symptoms don't improve. You may need more tests to see if an underlying condition is causing the symptoms.

For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in San Marcos, California, please visit our website at or give us a call at (760) 274-2377

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

See Our Services