Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that can cause painful stomach cramps and changes in the frequency, or type of bowel movements. IBS can be hard to diagnose since it can be triggered by a variety of things. And everyone’s trigger is different, and symptoms are not always consistent among patients. Finally, the symptoms of IBS also mimic that of other conditions, making it difficult to know for sure if you have it without talking to a doctor. Below are some of the more common symptoms of IBS.
Signs And Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Abdominal pain or cramps.
This is one of the most common sigs of IBS, and usually occurs in the lower abdomen. The pain typically goes away after a bowel movement. For many people, a change in diet can help with the pain. Medications also exist that can treat pain associated with IBS.
Gas and bloating.
This is another common symptom of IBS. With IBS, extra gas is produced in the gut, and can cause bloating (which may also lead to pain mentioned above). Again, certain changes in your diet may help reduce gas and bloating.
Diarrhea, constipation, or both.
Some people with IBS may experience loose stools, or a sudden, immediate urge to have a bowel movement. Others may experience constipation, which when accompanied by pain that improves following a bowel movement is a common sign of IBS. Still others may have alternating bouts of both diarrhea and constipation.
Feeling tired or a lack of energy is a common complaint in people with irritable bowel syndrome. This may be because certain vitamins that are essential to our well-being are not as readily absorbed when you have IBS. Additionally, disruptions in sleep due to increased symptoms of IBS may lead to a worsened quality of sleep, and increased tiredness throughout the day.
Different foods may trigger IBS in different people, but some common ones may include lactose and gluten, or FODMAPs, which are certain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. These include certain vegetables and fruits, beans, wheat and rye, some nuts, and sweeteners or artificial sweeteners. Learn more about FODMAP diets here.
Pay attention to your diet to see what foods may be triggering your symptoms. A bowel diary can help you track this. (Download our free bowel diary here!)
The symptoms of IBS may cause great distress and leave patients feeling overly stressed and anxious. Ironically, reactions of stress can actually lead to added IBS symptoms. Finding ways to reduce stress (like meditating or exercising regularly) may lead to less severe symptoms of IBS.
IBS can be a very painful and uncomfortable condition, but the good news is that it’s treatable. Not everyone with IBS will have all of these symptoms, but if you’re experiencing any of the conditions listed above, talk to your doctor. Together you can figure out a treatment plan that works for you.