Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Program

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that is characterized by recurrent symptoms that include stomach pain, cramping or bloating. This often accompanies altered bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea or both, alternating.

IBS can also be defined by what it is NOT:

  • A physical, structural, or infectious problem with the gut
  • An early form of worsening or progressive gastrointestinal disease
  • Life-threatening
  • Something you "just have to live with"


IBS is diagnosed when an individual experiences any of these types of disruptive symptoms several times a month for a few months in a row or longer. IBS is different from occasional constipation or diarrhea and is not due to other diseases or injuries.

Do not assume your symptoms are due to IBS unless you have been diagnosed by a gastroenterologist. It is important to rule out serious gastroenterological conditions, such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and colon cancer, all of which may cause symptoms to those similar to IBS.

If you've had a past diagnosis of IBS, it is important to be reassessed if your symptoms change.

Living with IBS

IBS is not life threatening, but it is a very common medical disorder that can be difficult to manage. IBS can interfere with your ability to participate in daily activities and may affect the quality of your life. It does not progress in severity, transform into another disease or harm the intestine. Because it doesn't damage the intestine or cause inflammation, it never causes the colon to bleed. If blood is seen in the stool or on toilet paper, contact your doctor immediately.

Although stress and anxiety do not cause IBS, life stressors and certain types of anxiety may affect the frequency and intensity of IBS symptoms. Research shows that learning how to adjust the way you and your body respond to stress can improve IBS symptoms and the quality of your life.

A Team Approach to Your Care

Our IBS Program offers a patient-centered, team-based, holistic approach to treatment. We believe that it is possible to live well even if you have a chronic condition such as IBS. Our interdisciplinary team of specialists will develop a treatment plan that focuses on self-management strategies to improve your physical health, emotional well-being and quality of life.

IBS Care Team Members


After a thorough gastrointestinal (digestive system) evaluation and diagnosis of IBS, your gastroenterologist will discuss treatment options with you, including standard treatments using conventional medicines.

Medical Nutrition

This branch of the IBS Program includes a nutritional assessment by a registered dietitian. Your current nutritional status and eating habits, as well as your past experience with dietary modifications will be assessed. Various dietary options that have been shown to be helpful for those suffering from IBS will be discussed. A plan tailored specifically to your needs will be developed.

Health Psychology

Health Psychology can help you improve your gastrointestinal health and sense of well-being. Because IBS is a functional bowel disorder, it only intensified, not caused by emotions or stress. The tools that health psychologists use to help you feel better can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, gut-focused relaxation training and stress management training. These therapies help you target IBS symptoms directly and address the stress of living with IBS.

Integrative Medicine 

IBS symptoms can be triggered or worsened by many things, including complex interactions between medications and supplements you may be taking. Your integrative medicine specialist will use a holistic approach to match helpful therapies to your needs. Integrative medicine combines conventional Western medicine with alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, biofeedback, acupuncture, yoga, massage and exercise – all in an effort to treat the whole person.

How Long Does Treatment Take?

The IBS team approaches each patient individually. Our goal is to provide therapies that have long-term benefits for you. Your participation in the IBS Program includes an evaluation with a Meriter gastroenterologist, 6-10 sessions with a health psychologist, 1-2 sessions with our medical nutritionist and consultation with our integrative medicine physician. Our goal is to work with you and your primary care physician to help you develop the skills and confidence to best manage IBS.

Appointments and Referrals

To participate in the IBS Program at Meriter, request a referral to Gastroenterology by any of your medical providers.


Most insurance plans will cover the cost of services offered by members of our care team, although treatment may involve a co-pay. Please provide our clinic with updated insurance information. UnityPoint Health - Meriter serves patients covered by most commercial insurance plans, including:

  • The Alliance
  • Blue Cross
  • Health EOS
  • Humana
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Physicians Plus
  • WEA Trust
  • WPS