Belgian consensus on irritable bowel syndrome

Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2022 Apr-Jun;85(2):360-382. doi: 10.51821/85.2.10100.


Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterised by recurrent abdominal pain related to defaecation or associated with altered stool frequency or consistency. Despite its prevalence, major uncertainties in the diagnostic and therapeutic management persist in clinical practice.

Methods: A Delphi consensus was conducted by 20 experts from Belgium, and consisted of literature review and voting process on 78 statements. Grading of recommendations, assessment, development and evaluation criteria were applied to evaluate the quality of evidence. Consensus was defined as > 80 % agreement.

Results: Consensus was reached for 50 statements. The Belgian consensus agreed as to the multifactorial aetiology of IBS. According to the consensus abdominal discomfort also represents a cardinal symptom, while bloating and abdominal distension often coexist. IBS needs subtyping based on stool pattern. The importance of a positive diagnosis, relying on history and clinical examination is underlined, while additional testing should remain limited, except when alarm features are present. Explanation of IBS represents a crucial part of patient management. Lifestyle modification, spasmolytics and water-solube fibres are considered first-line agents. The low FODMAP diet, selected probiotics, cognitive behavioural therapy and specific treatments targeting diarrhoea and constipation are considered appropriate. There is a consensus to restrict faecal microbiota transplantation and gluten-free diet, while other treatments are strongly discouraged.

Conclusions: A panel of Belgian gastroenterologists summarised the current evidence on the aetiology, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of IBS with attention for the specificities of the Belgian healthcare system.

Keywords: Delphi consensus; diagnosis; irritable bowel syndrome; review; treatment.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Consensus
  • Constipation / drug therapy
  • Diarrhea
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / etiology