Risk factors for IBS

It’s been noted that people who have had gastroenteritis or a previous bout of food poisoning are at higher risk of being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

It’s also been found that people who suffer from mental-health problems such as stress, anxiety and/or depression are more likely to have inadequate coping skills. This, in turn, affects the physiological functioning of the gut (read ‘Causes of IBS’). 

Diet has also been implicated in an IBS diagnosis. People who consume a western diet that’s typically low in fibre, high in saturated and total fat, high in salt and sugar, and low in fruit and vegetables are more likely to suffer from gut-related issues and IBS.

People who consume too much caffeine, change their dietary patterns drastically, or drink too little water are also at risk. 

Other risk factors include:

  • Abuse of over-the-counter medication. Certain medications (especially laxatives) change the functioning of the gut if they’re overused. 
  • Long-term use of antibiotics. The use of antibiotics can change the balance of gut flora, thereby causing the pathogenic bacteria to predominate over the beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Food intolerances. People who exhibit signs of food intolerances such as lactose or fructose intolerance may also suffer from IBS. 

Read more:
Diagnosing IBS

Reviewed by Kim Hofmann, registered dietitian, BSc Medical (Honours) Nutrition and Dietetics, BSc (Honours) Psychology. January 2018.


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