Potential Causes and Present Pharmacotherapy of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An Overview

Pharmacology. 2015;96(1-2):76-85. doi: 10.1159/000435816. Epub 2015 Jul 1.


Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is currently one of the most common disorders of the digestive system in the Western society. Almost 2 out of 10 people suffer from IBS with women being more affected than men. IBS is associated with abdominal pain, bloating and altered stool consistency and imposes a heavy burden for the affected patients.

Summary: The pathophysiology of IBS remains elusive although potential causes have been suggested, such as a deranged brain-gut signaling, hypersensitivity of visceral sensory afferent fibers, bacterial gastroenteritis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), genetic alterations and food sensitivity. Targets for the pharmacotherapy of IBS include the serotonergic and opioidergic system, and the microbial population of the gut. Alternative therapies like traditional Chinese medicine have shown some success in the combat against IBS. Key Messages: Many therapeutics for the treatment of IBS have emerged in the past; however, only a few have met up with the expectations in larger clinical trials. Additionally, the multifactorial etiology of IBS and its variety of cardinal symptoms requires an individual set of therapeutics. This review provides a short overview of potential causes and current pharmacological therapeutics and of additional and alternative therapies for IBS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / etiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Gastrointestinal Agents