Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal condition that afflicts more women than men in America. It is characterized by a variety of symptoms, from cramping to severe abdominal pain, and it can be made worse by stress, certain foods or beverages, and other factors.
To find out if you have IBS (and to receive medical treatment for this debilitating condition), speak to a gastroenterologist. This guide will help you determine if you have irritable bowel syndrome or another condition, such as indigestion or bloating.
Your Bowel Movements Are Uncomfortable
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a come-and-go condition; IBS typically has flare-ups that can last for a few days to almost a week, and then symptoms will subside for a while. IBS Is most known for the uncomfortable bowel movements it causes, such as regular constipation or persistent diarrhea. Some people suffer from both hard and runny stools, which can be very discouraging.
Your Stomach Hurts Often
Abdominal pain, caused by bloating and gas from a slow-moving intestinal tract (a common characteristic of IBS) is another symptom to look for in this condition. Your stomach may hurt most frequently after you've eaten or consumed thick beverages (such as milkshakes) and may only subside after several hours or after the application of a heating pad.
In addition to stomach pain, you may notice your chest appearing bloated and full under your ribs. Your abdomen may feel very tender to the touch and may gurgle and make ample noise as your body struggles to work through the digestion of food intake.
You Go - A Lot
An average person will defecate up to three times a day or poop only a few times a week. If you find yourself going often throughout the day (to the point where your bowel movements are entirely unpredictable), then this is not normal bodily behavior. You may have days where you can manage your bowel movements and others where the urge to go is sudden.
Your gastroenterologist will want a history of your bowel movements, along with consistency and frequency to help diagnose your condition.
Irritable bowel syndrome can cause your body to produce excess gases as your intestines attempt to digest matter. If you pass gas frequently, especially if your gas hurts or causes discomfort, then see a specialist to determine if your gas is caused by a bacterial intestinal infection or some other medical concern.
Stress Makes Things Worse
Stress is a known enemy of irritable bowel syndrome. If you get constipated, indigestion, or suffer from diarrhea when you are stressed out and your symptoms (while still present) are more mild when you are calm, then you may have IBS.
Certain Foods Cause You Pain
Greasy and fatty foods often make IBS symptoms much worse. Start keeping a food diary, writing down how your bowel movements are after consuming certain foods, such as snack items, pizza, dairy, and greasy foods (such as tacos). If your body has a harder time digesting certain foods over others, try omitting the offending foods from your diet; if you have IBS, your symptoms may improve or go away almost entirely.
Luckily, you can manage IBS symptoms once you receive a diagnosis. Severe cases often require prescription medications to manage bodily discomfort, while others simply require a change in diet and stress levels. While IBS is entirely treatable and some people argue the condition can be cured, most likely irritable bowel syndrome simply goes into remission with fewer flare-ups once professionally managed.
A gastroenterologist will diagnose your intestinal problems; see our specialists at B-L Family Practice for an appointment today.