Update in the therapeutic management of irritable bowel syndrome

Augusto Villanueva, J. Enrique Domínguez-Muñoz, Fermín Mearin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a remarkably frequent disorder that leads to relevant impairment in patients' quality of life. Four mechanisms are involved in the pathogenesis of IBS: altered intestinal motility; increased visceral sensitivity; disturbed intestinal reflexes (intrinsic and extrinsic), and psychological disorders. The close relationship between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system (the brain-gut axis) is the basis of the actual research on IBS therapy. It is conceivable that in the near future a better understanding of IBS pathophysiology will help us to tailor treatment for different IBS patients. At the moment, the subclassification of the diverse patterns of symptomatology allows the adjustment of treatments for IBS according to the clinical predominance of each patient. Dietary modifications like fiber supplementation, antidiarrheal agents and antispasmodic drugs are the basis of the current treatment of IBS and depend on the predominant symptom (constipation, diarrhea or pain, respectively). If severe pain is present, antidepressant agents are an appropriate alternative. However, the scientific evidence supporting this current therapeutic approach is limited. Visceral analgesics and serotonin agonists and antagonists may play an important therapeutic role in the near future. However, it is not likely that one single treatment will help every IBS patient and many of them will need a more complex approach with multidisciplinary therapy (diet, psychotherapy, medications).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-250
Number of pages7
JournalDigestive Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Analgesics
  • Antidepressant agents
  • Antidiarrheal agents
  • Antispasmodic agents
  • Brain-gut axis
  • Diet
  • Dietary fiber
  • Prokinetic agents
  • Psychotherapy
  • Serotonin receptor agonists
  • Serotonin receptor antagonists


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