A small but significant subgroup of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) report a sudden onset of their IBS symptoms after a bout of gastroenteritis. Population-based surveys show that although a history of neurotic and psychologic disorders, pain-related diseases, and gastroenteritis are all risk factors for developing IBS, gastroenteritis is the most potent. More toxigenic organisms increase the risk 11-fold, as does an initial illness lasting more than 3 weeks. Hypochondriasis and adverse life events double the risk for postinfective (PI)-IBS and may account for the increased proportion of women who develop this syndrome. PI-IBS is associated with modest increases in mucosal T lymphocytes and serotonin-containing enteroendocrine cells. Animal models and some preliminary human data suggest this leads to excessive serotonin release from the mucosa. Both the histologic changes and symptoms in humans may last for many years with only 40% recovering over a 6-year follow-up. Celiac disease, microscopic colitis, lactose intolerance, early stage Crohn's disease, and bile salt malabsorption should be excluded, as should colon cancer in those over the age of 45 years or in those with a positive family history. Treatment with Loperamide, low-fiber diets, and bile salt- binding therapy may help some patients. Serotonin antagonists are logical treatments but have yet to be evaluated.