Understanding IBS: From Causes to Symptom Management

Understanding IBS: From Causes to Symptom Management

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects millions of women worldwide, significantly impacting their daily lives and overall quality of life. During IBS Awareness Month, it’s crucial to shed light on this condition, exploring not just the symptoms and immediate management strategies, but also the deeper, underlying causes.

Registered Nutritional Therapist and IBS expert, Marilia Chamon, shares her knowledge and expertise on IBS to help you create a personalised approach that addresses both the symptoms and underlying causes of the disorder. 


What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

IBS is a disorder of the gut-brain axis, which refers to the biochemical signalling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain, characterised by a combination of symptoms that can include abdominal pain, bloating, abdominal distention and changes in bowel habits such as constipation, diarrhoea, or alternating between the two.

Causes of IBS

The exact cause of IBS is not well understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of factors including:

  • Altered gastrointestinal motility
  • Infections such as gastroenteritis  
  • Hypersensitivity to pain from within the bowel
  • Psychosocial factors like stress
  • An imbalance of gut bacteria also known as dysbiosis


Managing IBS: Strategies and Symptom Management

Managing IBS effectively requires a personalised, multifactorial approach, as there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. The complexity of IBS, influenced by factors such as diet, stress, and underlying health conditions, demands a comprehensive strategy tailored to each individual's unique needs. Here, I explore several key components of managing IBS, emphasising the importance of working with a gut health expert to address underlying causes and develop an effective roadmap.

Personalised Dietary Changes

Diet plays a crucial role in managing IBS symptoms, but the right diet can vary significantly from person to person. Common strategies include:

  • Low FODMAP Diet: Up to 75% of individuals find relief by following a low FODMAP diet, which eliminates foods that cause excessive fermentation in the gut, leading to gas and bloating. Foods high in FODMAPs include onions, garlic, certain fruits, and wheat products. This diet is typically implemented in phases, starting with a strict elimination of high FODMAP foods, followed by a careful reintroduction phase to identify personal triggers.
  • Fibre Modification: Adjusting fibre intake can also help manage symptoms. Some people benefit from increasing fibre to alleviate constipation, while others might need to reduce fibre to lessen diarrhoea.

Stress Management Techniques

Since stress can significantly impact the severity and frequency of IBS symptoms, effective stress management is a key component of any action plan. Techniques may include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps patients identify and manage stressors that trigger or worsen their symptoms.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can help reduce overall stress levels and improve gut-brain axis communication.


Supplements can play a role in managing IBS, particularly in cases of dysbiosis or poor digestive output:

  • Probiotics: These can help rebalance the gut microbiome, reducing symptoms of bloating and irregular bowel movements.
  • Fibre Supplements: These can help regulate bowel movements, though they should be used cautiously depending on whether the individual suffers more from constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Peppermint oil: Peppermint has natural properties that help relax the smooth muscles of the gut. 


Effectively managing IBS requires a thoughtful, personalised approach that addresses both the symptoms and the underlying causes of the disorder. By combining dietary and lifestyle changes, stress reduction techniques, and appropriate use of supplements, individuals with IBS can achieve significant improvements in their quality of life. Working with an experienced gut health nutritionist is crucial to developing a comprehensive management plan that is both effective and sustainable.


Marilia Chamon
Written by Marilia Chamon
Registered Nutritional Therapist, Gut Health, IBS & SIBO Expert
Founder of Gutfulness Nutrition
   **At Free Soul, your well-being is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.