The Puzzle So Far…

A list of possible causes of IBS from

Here is just a partial list of possible causes of IBS!!! Research continues.

Irritable bowel syndrome is the name for a group of symptoms, not a disease. It’s not like the flu. The flu has one cause, the influenza virus. IBS doesn’t seem to be like that, in fact there may be many causes of irritable bowel syndrome. That’s why it’s so hard to nail down.

At this point, no one has found one specific cause of IBS. But thanks to tireless work of countless researchers, we know a lot more about it, and what you can do to prevent symptoms of IBS.

Listed below are some of the current theories about the causes of irritable bowel syndrome. Included in the list are some things don’t cause IBS, but can make it worse or trigger an attack.

What Are the Possible Causes of IBS?

Over Sensitive Bowels

If your Colon (also known as the large intestine) is unusually sensitive, it may over react to things like stress, food sensitivities and other bowel irritants. That leads to bowl spasms, pain and other IBS symptoms.

Food Sensitivities

People with IBS often have problems when they eat certain foods. Learning to avoid your IBS food triggers can REALLY help your health in many ways. When I stopped eating wheat, many of my health problems disappeared.

Wheat and dairy products are two major causes of IBS symptoms. Some other IBS triggers are fatty foods, caffeine and alcohol.

Female senior with bowel pain

Extra pain sensors in the colon may be one of the causes of IBS.

Extra Pain Receptors

In 2008 a British study found that people with IBS have more of the pain receptors responsible for burning sensations. These receptors respond to spicy foods like chili peppers.

Some researchers believe these extra pain receptors may be one of the main causes of irritable bowel syndrome.


Undetected parasites can cause the symptoms of IBS. Many people have parasites without even knowing it. Some people have IBS symptoms even after getting rid of parasites, as explained below.

Researchers have proposed that parasites and bacterial infections can somehow damage the nerves or structure of intestines.

One theory is that this damage then causes the bowel to become more sensitive to irritation, and more prone to spasms and other IBS symptoms.

Bacterial Infections

 one of the causes of IBS, from

There are good organisms and “bad” organisms in your bowels. If these get out of balance, it can be one of the causes of IBS.

No one knows why, but some people develop IBS after a bad bout of gastroenteritis (the dreaded stomach flu). Researchers have proposed that a severe bacterial infection along with diarrhea can damage the lining and/or nerves of the intestinal tract.

This damage may prevent us from breaking down or absorbing certain foods. When these foods don’t get processed properly they then cause irritation in the large intestine.

Voila. Instant IBS. That’s the theory anyway.

There is also the “small intestine bacterial overgrowth” or SIBO theory. This is where bacteria is growing where it doesn’t belong, which leads to IBS symptoms. Doctors have been using rifaximin to treat SIBO over the past few years.


Antibiotics kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad. Without the good bacteria your intestinal tract doesn’t function properly. Also, without the protection of the good bacteria (more properly called “intestinal flora”), yeasts can take over and cause lots of grief.

Yeast (Candida Albicans)

Yeasts live in everyones digestive tract. They’re only a problem when they grow out of control. Frequent antibiotic use and a high sugar diet can lead to a massive overgrowth of yeast.

Candida Albicans is a particularly harmful yeast that can damage your bowels and cause “leaky gut.” Once Candida or other yeasts take control, it can be hard to get your intestinal flora back in balance.


Doctors used to think stress was one of the causes of Irritable bowel syndrome. Studies later showed that stress by itself doesn’t cause IBS. However stress is a major IBS trigger.

Some people seem to have a very strong connection between their brain and their bowels. The nerves in the bowel respond to stress with cramps, spasms and sometimes nausea; the classic “nervous stomach.”

Learning to handle stress can make a big difference for many people with IBS.

Food Additives

There are a lot of things in our foods that don’t belong there. Our bodies don’t know what to do with them. How many food labels have words we can’t pronounce?

The list of suspects is long, here are just a few baddies:

Mono sodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame (also called Nutrasweet and other names) are “excitotoxins.” Excitotoxins can damage neurotransmitters, and cause a variety of problems.

Sorbitol is a sweetener used in chewing gum and other things. It’s actually a LAXATIVE! Laxatives are usually used for constipation. Probably not a good idea for people who have IBS with diarrhea.

At this point in my life, I follow my hero Jack LaLanne’s advice on this:
Jack says “If man makes it, DON’T EAT IT!”

Now You Know Some Possible Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome…

Let’s get busy doing something about it!

Next stop: Food Intolerance