J Korean Acad Nurs.  2013 Oct;43(5):579-586. 10.4040/jkan.2013.43.5.579.

Update on Irritable Bowel Syndrome Program of Research

  • 1Department of Biobehavioral Nursing & Health Systems, University of Washington, Seattle, USA. heit@uw.edu
  • 2College of Nursing, Keimyung University, Daegu, Korea.


This article provides an update and overview of a nursing research program focused on understanding the pathophysiology and management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
This review includes English language papers from the United States, Europe, and Asia (e.g., South Korea) from 1999 to 2013. We addressed IBS as a health problem, emerging etiologies, diagnostic and treatment approaches and the importance of a biopsychosocial model.
IBS is a chronic, functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of abdominal pain and alterations in bowel habit (diarrhea, constipation, mixed). It is a condition for which adults, particularly women ages 20-45, seek health care services in both the United States and South Korea. Clinically, nurses play key roles in symptom prevention and management including designing and implementing approaches to enhance the patients' self-management strategies. Multiple mechanisms are believed to participate in the development and maintenance of IBS symptoms including autonomic nervous system dysregulation, intestinal inflammation, intestinal dysbiosis, dietary intolerances, alterations in emotion regulation, heightened visceral pain sensitivity, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysregulation, and dysmotility. Because IBS tends to occur in families, genetic factors may also contribute to the pathophysiology. Patients with IBS often report a number of co-morbid disorders and/or symptoms including poor sleep.
The key to planning effective management strategies is to understand the heterogeneity of this disorder. Interventions for IBS include non-pharmacological strategies such as cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation strategies, and exclusion diets.


Irritable bowel syndrome; Adults; Etiology; Diagnosis; Treatment

MeSH Terms

Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal/therapeutic use
Clinical Nursing Research
Immunosuppressive Agents/therapeutic use
Irritable Bowel Syndrome/diagnosis/drug therapy/*physiopathology
Self Care
Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
Immunosuppressive Agents
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