A woman clutches her abdomen in pain

Could It Be IBS? Know the Symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition affecting anywhere from 6-18 percent of people worldwide. The exact cause of IBS is still unknown, but the syndrome has many well-documented symptoms that doctors can use to reach a diagnosis. Think you might have IBS? Check out the symptoms below and consider whether yours line up.

What Are the Signs of IBS?

No two people experience IBS the same way, and each person can display a unique mix of symptoms. If you experience any of the following signs, log their frequency, duration, and severity:

  • Pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gas and bloating
  • Changes in your bowel movements
  • Feeling as if you haven’t completed a bowel movement
  • White mucus in your stool
  • Worsening symptoms during menstrual periods

How Do Doctors Diagnose IBS?

Doctors take a look at your symptoms and how long you’ve had them, which is why tracking yours is essential. Typically, an IBS diagnosis requires you to have experienced symptoms for at least six months with them occurring at least once a week for the past three months. Your doctor will ask questions about you and your family’s medical history, as well as perform an external abdominal exam.

How Can I Treat My IBS?

Your doctor will likely recommend making lifestyle changes, including drinking more water, exercising regularly, and eating a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are a variety of carbs, such as legumes, dairy, and natural and artificial sweeteners, that commonly upset the stomach. If symptoms persist, your doctor might recommend probiotics (to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut), laxatives, or over-the-counter medication. There are a variety of prescription medicines that treat specific symptoms of IBS, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. Your doctor can review your symptoms and recommend the right treatment options for you.

If these signs sound familiar to you, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. They can review your symptoms and, if necessary, refer you to a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group gastroenterologist for further testing and treatment.
 

Sources:
NIDDK | Symptoms & Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
NIDDK | Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Healthline | 9 Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Healthline | A Beginner's Guide to the Low-FODMAP Diet
NIDDK | Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome