IBS Explained

Posted at 3:15 PM on Apr 11, 2022


IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome, and worldwide this affects 10-15% of the population. The causes of this disease are relatively unknown, but genetics, lifestyle choices, and life experiences may predispose someone to have IBS. There are no tests that diagnose IBS, but if a person is experiencing symptoms, various tests will be done to rule out other diseases.

IBS is characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort associated with bowel movements. This discomfort is often described as a cramping sensation.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS

In addition to the most common symptom of cramping, patients also may experience:

  • Change in their bowel movements (frequency or consistency of the stool)
  • Urgency 
  • Bloating
  • Mucus in stool
  • Sharp pain
  • Relief after a bowel movement
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Feeling of fullness

Symptoms may change over time. This means it is not uncommon for someone experiencing constipation to then experience diarrhea.

How do I Know if I Have IBS?

As mentioned above, there is no diagnostic test to confirm IBS, but your physician will likely rule out other diseases before diagnosing your symptoms as IBS.

Your doctor may recommend you start a journal to document your symptoms and frequency to diagnose your symptoms.  It helps to have at least some general information about this pattern at the time of your clinic visits. Based on your symptoms, your physician may then order additional tests, which could include:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool test
  • Digital rectal exam
  • Colon examination

Every situation is unique, and therefore, how your doctor proceeds with additional testing will also be unique for each patient.

Treating IBS

Education is the first step to treating IBS. It’s important to understand that IBS is a long-term condition, and the symptoms can change over time. IBS is not a risk factor for more serious diseases, and the symptoms themselves are not life-threatening.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, it may be recommended to:

  • Keep a diary to help you understand any factors that may make symptoms worse
  • Work on stress management
  • Take certain medications
  • Participate in Cognitive therapy
  • Learn techniques to help with pain management

Additionally, certain lifestyle factors may influence flare-ups. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, irregular eating patterns, and increased stress may cause symptoms to worsen.

Experiencing IBS or Think You Might Be?

The best place to begin is by seeing your primary care physician. Make an appointment today to discuss your symptoms with your doctor, and they can determine the next steps.