Irritable bowel syndrome

An overview of Providence Health Care’s services and resources for adults experiencing irritable bowel syndrome.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a cluster of symptoms involving the digestive system. Symptoms include abdominal bloating, constipation and diarrhea.

The cause of IBS is unknown. It is the most common gastrointestinal disorder worldwide and affects up to 20 percent of people in Canada.

Although IBS has similar symptoms to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease, it is a separate condition.


Pacific Gastroenterology Associates
770 – 1190 Hornby Street 
Vancouver, BC, V6Z

Diagnosis & testing

There is no diagnostic test for IBS. Instead, your health care team at Providence Health Care will refer you for a series of tests. These will help to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. Tests include:

  • Laboratory tests like blood and stool tests.
  • X-rays to take an image of your digestive system with electromagnetic rays.
  • Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to look inside your colon. To do both tests, a thin, flexible tube with a camera is put into your colon through your rectum. Sigmoidoscopies focus on the lower end of your colon, which is an area called the sigmoid. Colonoscopies focus on your entire colon. The tubes also have tools to take tissue samples, which can be tested in a laboratory.

Treatment & management

IBS is a chronic condition that requires long-term management of symptoms. IBS does not increase your risk of developing cancer. As well, it does not cause long-term damage to your digestive system.

If we diagnose you with IBS, we will create a treatment plan just for you to help with your symptoms. Your care team will likely include a gastroenterologist. It may also include a clinical dietitian and sometimes a counsellor.

You will need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle, as well as reduce your stress levels.

Diet and lifestyle recommendations that we often make at Providence include:

  • Eating a high fibre diet. This includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereal. Fibre helps keep your bowels soft and easy to pass.
  • Drinking lots of water. Staying hydrated prevents constipation. Avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol since these can be dehydrating. Carbonated drinks should also be avoided since they can cause bloating.
  • Exercising regularly. Make sure to exercise at least three times a week. Moving your body also increases the activity in your gastrointestinal muscles.
  • Getting enough sleep. You should get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
  • Eating a low FODMAP diet. If we recommend you eat a low FODMAP diet, we will pair you with one of Providence’s clinical dietitians. This will help ensure you are still meeting all your nutritional needs.

To assist in lowering your stress levels, we may refer you to a counsellor.

If changing your diet and lifestyle doesn't help with your IBS symptoms, we may recommend medication. This could be over-the-counter or prescription medication.

Support services

Providence offers a variety of services to support those we care for. The following services may be of use or benefit to you and your families.

Support for Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Wellness Liaison Team is here to support your health journey. Team members offer cultural support and healthcare advocacy. Learn more below or call them at 604-682-2344,62937 or email

  • Indigenous wellness services

    The Indigenous Wellness Team at Providence is available to support Indigenous patients and their families. We are here to coordinate culturally safe wellness supports and services.

Education & resources

Clinical trials & research

Advances in IBS treatments are all thanks to medical research. While participating in research is a decision you should make for yourself in consultation with your care team, there is much activity in this area so please ask us about our research programs if you’re interested.

By taking part in research, you can help us all learn more about IBS and find better ways to help people like you live and thrive with the condition. While you cannot assume benefit to yourself, your participation can make a difference in improving care for future patients.

The following clinical trials are currently enrolling volunteers. Please ask your care team for more information or contact the research team listed on each study or trial. For other information about research at Providence Health Care, please visit Providence Research.

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