Can IBS be cured and why does it cause gas? Part 2

Written by: Dr Michael Mendall
Published: | Updated: 27/02/2020
Edited by: Cal Murphy

Welcome to the second part of this guide to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a common digestive condition that can involve abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. Top Doctors talked to expert gastroenterologist Dr Michael Mendall, who provides the answers to all the questions you might have about this condition – how to treat IBS, can IBS be cured, and the connection between IBS and gas.

Why does IBS cause gas?

It’s actually the gas that causes the IBS. It may be that the patient has the wrong balance of bacteria in the intestine, which means that food is not digested properly. A large amount of bacteria in the large intestine (and, to a lesser extent, the small intestine), ferments the partially digested food, which creates gas. The gas will make you feel distended and bloated – classic symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, as is the flatulence which usually follows. When the food material in your gut is only partially digested like this, it can also cause diarrhoea.

Can IBS be cured?

In certain instances, genuine intestinal conditions such as coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease can masquerade as irritable bowel syndrome, and, as there are effective treatments for these, it can appear that IBS has been cured, when in fact it was not IBS in the first place. For specific intolerances, in a sense you can cure it by cutting the specific food out of your diet. For example, people whose irritable bowel syndrome is due to wheat intolerance can be “cured” by simply avoiding wheat.

How to treat IBS

The first option is simply to change your diet. Tablets can be taken if changing diet doesn’t work. There are tablets that cause spasm in the bowel, laxatives and anti-diarrhoea tablets. One cause of irritable bowel syndrome is bile salt malabsorption (when you don’t absorb bile properly), and this can be treated by drugs, which contain a resin that binds the bile and stops it irritating the bowel. This is particularly likely in people with gallbladder problems or who have had their gallbladders removed

Very low doses of antidepressants can be used to treat IBS. There are also lots of new drugs that work in different ways, and have been shown to be effective, but not much more so than the aforementioned treatments.


If you are showing symptoms of IBS, you may want to consult your GP or a specialist.

You can read the first part of Dr Mendall's interview here

By Dr Michael Mendall

Dr Michael Mendall is a renowned London-based gastroenterologist who specialises in conditions such as liver disease, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as indigestion but to mention a few. He was first appointed as a consultant gastroenterologist at Croydon University Hospital in 1995, and, in the same year, as a senior lecturer at St George's Medical School.

He qualified from none other than Cambridge University in 1982 before going on to successfully complete studies in the medical field at the renowned Middlesex Hospital in 1985, completing both with distinction. He has made a number of important contributions to his field of expertise. He is internationally recognised with nearly 100 peer reviewed publications. He was the first to show that Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach is mainly caught in childhood, and, more recently, was the first to show that obesity can be a cause of Crohn's disease. He possesses an extensive amount of knowledge and experience with regards to performing upper GI endoscopy and colonoscopy, oesophageal manometary, as well as duodenal and biliary stenting. 

To-date, Dr Mendall has written extensively on the role of diet in Crohn's, about IBS, the treatment of dyspepsia and reflux and Helicobacter pylori infection. He is currently the lead for gastroenterology at Croydon University Hospital, as well as a senior lecturer at St George's Medical School. Dr Mendall, who is also a member of various medical organisations, was named one of the top UK consultants in the Tatler Guide 2013. 

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