Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Between 25 and 45 million people in the U.S. live with the chronic diarrhea, constipation and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But when you’re one of those millions, statistics don’t matter. You just want effective IBS treatment to ease your symptoms.

The IBS experts at Henry Ford Health’s Center for Motility Disorders are here to provide the answers you need. We take the time to understand how IBS affects your life and create a treatment plan based on your needs and preferences. You receive compassionate, responsive care from a team that understands what you’re going through.

What is IBS?

IBS describes a group of symptoms related to digestive problems. It often causes constipation, diarrhea or both. Some experts refer to IBS as a functional gastrointestinal disorder or a disorder of gut-brain interaction. These terms mean that IBS is related to how the nerves and muscles in your gastrointestinal system work with the nerves in your brain to move and sense food moving through your digestive tract.

Experts don’t know exactly what causes IBS, but they do know that stress, infections, certain foods and some medications can trigger flare-ups (sudden episodes of sickness).

Are IBS and IBD the same?

IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are two different conditions. IBS is a problem with the way food moves through your digestive tract. IBD is chronic inflammation in your intestines.

The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD can increase your risk for colon cancer; IBS does not.

IBS symptoms

The most common IBS symptoms are:

  • Constipation (IBS-C)
  • Diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • Both diarrhea and constipation (IBS-M, for mixed)

Other symptoms of IBS can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas or belching
  • Mucus in your stool
  • Nausea and vomiting

How is IBS diagnosed?

Many people spend years living with IBS and never know what’s causing their symptoms. Since IBS isn’t the result of something we can spot on an imaging exam, such as inflammation or an intestinal blockage, it can be difficult to diagnose. But the condition isn’t in your head. Our experts are here to provide the comprehensive evaluation you need to start feeling better.

During the diagnostic process, we:

  • Ask about your medical history
  • Do a physical exam
  • Order blood and stool tests to rule out other conditions
  • Review your symptoms

Additional tests for IBS may include:

  • Hydrogen breath test: This test measures the level of hydrogen and methane gas in your breath after you eat certain carbohydrates. It can tell us if your digestive tract has a hard time breaking down sugars, such as lactose intolerance. We also use the test to detect small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or intestinal methanogen overgrowth (IMO).
  • Upper GI endoscopy: We use an endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a light and video camera that we insert through your mouth) to examine your esophagus, stomach and the first part of your small intestine. We use this test to rule out IBD, celiac sprue, and infectious and inflammatory stomach conditions.
  • Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is another endoscopic exam. We insert the endoscope through your rectum to examine your lower GI tract, which is your colon (large intestine). Like an upper GI endoscopy, we use this test to rule out tumors, inflammation and other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

Learn more about how we diagnose motility disorders at Henry Ford.

IBS treatment at Henry Ford

At Henry Ford Health, you have access to multiple IBS specialists under one roof. Gastroenterologists work with experts in nutrition, health psychology, integrative medicine and other disciplines to provide complete care.

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Dietary changes: Eating more fiber and less gluten and following a special low FODMAP diet for IBS may help ease symptoms. A low FODMAP diet involves reducing your intake of certain types of carbohydrates.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Exercise, better sleep habits and reduced stress can improve your mental health and minimize IBS flare-ups. We also recommend avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
  • IBS medication: Medication can relieve symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation and stomach pain. Neuromodulator medications can also help ease IBS symptoms.
  • Mental health therapies: Our team includes a gastrointestinal health psychologist who helps you manage IBS symptoms through relaxation and behavior modification. We offer cognitive behavioral therapy and gut-directed hypnotherapy for IBS.

Take the next step

To connect with a IBS specialist, call (800) 436-7936 or request an appointment.


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