A short bout of abdominal pain and diarrhea or constipation now and then is not unusual. But long-term or recurring symptoms are not normal. They may signal irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – and are generally treatable.

IBS Treatments Depend on Symptom Severity

Mild symptoms occur infrequently. They sometimes interfere with normal daily functioning.

Moderate symptoms occur more intensely and frequently. They more often interfere with daily activities.

Severe symptoms are frequent and intense. They chronically interfere with daily functioning.

Whether mild, moderate, or severe all IBS treatment should begin with education about the nature of the disorder…

  • IBS is a long-term condition
  • Symptoms flare over and over again
  • Symptoms can change over time
  • The symptoms themselves are not life threatening
  • IBS is not a risk for another more serious disease

For moderate symptoms consider…

  • Use of a diary, such as IFFGD’s Personal Daily Diary, to help find factors that worsen or bring on symptoms
  • Stress management, gut-directed hypnosis, biofeedback, relaxation, or pain management techniques
  • Consulting with your physician about the use of drug therapy. This often depends on your dominant bowel symptom

If symptoms are severe, also consider…

  • The use and benefits offered by cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Consulting with your doctor about the use of drug therapy for treatment of pain and bowel symptoms.
  • Use of a low-dose antidepressant, which acts on pain and other symptoms.
  • Seeking referral to a pain treatment center. These specialty centers are usually connected with universities.

Start right

IBS treatment starts with getting your facts straight. Learn all you can about IBS. Here are some things you need to know.

What it’s not:


  • Is not caused by your diet
  • Is not caused by stress
  • Is not a risk for cancer
  • Is not a risk for colitis
  • Does not cause malnutrition
  • Does not get worse with age, and
  • Does not shorten life span

What it is:


  • Is a long-term condition
  • Symptoms tend to come and go over time
  • Symptoms often change over time
  • Symptoms can usually be managed so that you feel better


Are there certain things that seem to worsen your IBS? If so, sorting these out can be helpful. While not causes, things like diet and stress can sometimes influence symptoms. This is not always clear-cut. Using a diary for 2-3 weeks can help identify factors that seem to worsen or trigger symptoms. Discuss your findings with your doctor.

Lifestyle factors

Lifestyle habits do not cause IBS. But minimizing excesses may help reduce or avoid symptom flare-ups. Things like lack of sleep and lack of exercise, prolonged stress, or irregular eating habits can worsen symptoms.

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IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization. Our mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal disorders.

Our original content is authored specifically for IFFGD readers, in response to your questions and concerns.

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting IFFGD with a small tax-deductible donation.

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