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Which Symptoms May Strongly Indicate That You Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Updated on September 19, 2016

Irritable bowel syndrome a is very common gut disorder, and it causes significant physical, mental and social burden on those who suffer from it, rendering the affected person frequently seeking medical help and advice.

It also imposes large impact on health services and resources in general.

If you are experiencing symptoms identical or similar to the symptoms explained below, you may actually have irritable bowel syndrome, instead of organic disease like colitis.

These symptoms characterize irritable bowel syndrome, and makes the diagnosis almost certain.

Before you read further, there are important points that must be noted:

  1. Very commonly, the symptoms of irritable syndrome overlap with the symptoms of other disorders and may even coexist and makes the diagnosis less clear.
  2. There is no test to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome since all tests are normal, except in case of the presence of any other illness.
  3. It's not necessarily that all symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are present simultaneously.
  4. Symptoms change over time in quality and intensity, and may vary greatly from one person to another.

Abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is a result of the colonic contractions, and it may be sometimes severe and accompanied by a desire to defecate.

A distinguishing feature is that it fades completely after defecation, like it was nothing.

Pain may occur with obvious trigger or may follow eating, but does not occur during sleep.

It may occur and disappear suddenly, and it can be as severe as it necessitate emergency evaluation, and carrying out some tests to make sure that there is no appendicitis or intestinal obstruction, or any other acute illness requiring urgent surgical intervention.


Pain may occasionally be described as feeling the clutch, heaviness, or discomfort. Although not a strong pain, but is annoying and disturbing.

Diarrhea after eating:

Diarrhea, or rather softer stool may be triggered by eating.

In many cases, diarrhea and sudden urge to defecate often occur while eating or with the first bite, and that usually doesn't happen with any organic disease of the digestive tract, and is considered a strong evidence for a functional disorder which is here irritable bowel syndrome.

Stool consistency changes constantly:

Since the colon in irritable bowel syndrome contracts more vigorously than normal , it sometimes empties its contents of fecal matter quickly, without adequate water absorption, hence leading to loose and soft stools formation.

On the other hand, contractions can be slow, allowing time to grab water, resulting in harder stools.

Due to these contractile abnormalities, stool consistency may vary significantly, even during the same day, between solid or hard, to loose or liquid stools.

Feeling of burning sensation in the skin of the abdomen:

Not everyone suffering from irritable bowel syndrome complains of this unique symptom.

Those who experience this symptom, often describe it as if pepper powder is sprayed over the skin of the tummy. This is again strongly indicative for the presence of a functional disorder in the colon.

No doubt that this symptom is upsetting and disturbing to the patient, and is often confusing for some doctors for its similarity with the symptoms of stomach problems.

Symptoms change over time in quality and intensity, and may vary greatly from one person to another

Bloating (flatulence):

Some people have relatively mild symptoms like abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, but instead, they have very annoying bloating.

Bloating is caused by increased formation of gas in the colon and may occur in several diseases of the digestive system.

In the case of irritable bowel syndrome, bloating may not be the result of an increase in gases, but from trapping of gases in between consecutive waves of contractions, causing impedance to the normal passage of gases as normally occurs by farting.

Many people complaining of bloating notice that the bulge of their tummies may not be related to eating.

It may be confined to one side of the abdomen, left or right, or the fullness may be of variable degrees from day to day, with no pain or only slight pain.

Some may complain of feeling of stomach fullness with no apparent bulge or true abdominal pain, with inability to sleep comfortably on the affected side when it's confined to one side of the abdomen.

Disappearance of the symptoms at bed time and gradual onset after waking up:

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms occur almost exclusively during wakefulness, unlike in organic colonic diseases where symptoms last throughout the day and they often prevent the patient from sleep or may wake him/her up, occasionally more than once during the night.

Given the close link between the brain and the colon through a dense network of nerve fibers that connect through the spinal cord, brain activity has a strong effect on the colonic wall muscle contractions.

What happens during sleep is the diminished activity of the central nervous system effect on the bowel, which eventually leads to significant inhibition of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.

This mechanism works also during relaxation, indicating how relaxation techniques can be a powerful therapeutic option.

Symptoms change dramatically depending on mood:

Everyone suffering from irritable bowel syndrome knows very well that mood has a role in triggering or abolishing the symptoms.

Sorrow ,anger, anxiety or stress exert negative impact on symptoms and may badly exaggerate abdominal pain, to unusual degree of severity, that may mimic acute appendicitis.

On the contrary, the elated mood and happiness can magically suppress symptoms.

I know many patients who suffer from frequent episodes of pain and other symptoms, and who didn't respond satisfactorily to different treatment modalities.

However, they often feel much better during leisure trips or vacation, or get away from work stresses.

Since there is a clear correlation between mental state and how severe the symptoms are, it is not unusual for irritable bowel syndrome to be associated with chronic anxiety symptoms such as excessive fear, sleep disorders, insomnia, loss of appetite, anger and sadness.

Furthermore, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may raise great concerns of harbouring a serious disease illness like cancer, creating more tension and anxiety symptoms.

Anger can make your bowel symptoms worse!
Anger can make your bowel symptoms worse!

In conclusion:

Irritable bowel syndrome, although diagnosed after ensuring the absence of organic diseases of the colon by conducting some tests, its symptom pattern is very characteristic, and the diagnosis may be almost certain even before investigating for alternative diagnosis.

Which one of the following may complicate irritable bowel syndrome?

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