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How to Identify IBS

Updated on June 18, 2013
IBS affects the lower intestines and the digestive tract.
IBS affects the lower intestines and the digestive tract. | Source

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is a disorders of the intestines. IBS is a long term issue/problem and causes a plethora of symptoms, but there are actions one can take to help reduce the symptoms and pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Symptoms and pain differs from day to day (depending on diet), but IBS does not worsen over time or cause other intestinal diseases.

Who is Affected by IBS?

Anyone can become affected by IBS, but it is more common in women.

What Causes IBS?

There are no known causes of irritable bowel syndrome.

Causes of IBS differ from person to person, but the main reasons one may develop IBS are due to diet, stress, anxiety, sensitive intestines, and a weak connection and signals sent between the brain and one's digestion system.

What are the Symptoms of IBS?

There are many symptoms of IBS and symptoms differ greatly from person to person.

Symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • Cramping

  • Bloating

  • Abdominal Pain

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Mucus in Stools

  • Change in Bowel Habits

  • Change is Stool Consistency

  • Irregular Bowel Habits

  • A Constant Urge to Have a Bowel Movement

  • Feeling of not Being able to Empty Bowels

Most people affected by IBS experience very mild symptoms (most women associate symptoms with the menstrual cycle). Most people do not seek medical attention for these symptoms.

How is IBS Diagnosed?

IBS is diagnosed by a doctor (most generally a gastrointestinal specialist). A doctor will ask routine questions (about symptoms and family history), press on and listen to the patients abdomen, and possibly run tests and other procedures.

Tests include (but are not limited to):

  • Blood Tests

  • Stool Analysis

  • Endoscopy and/or Colonoscopy

These test most likely rule out other problems (that may be causing similar symptoms).

How is IBS Treated?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be treated in many ways. One can treat themselves holistically or a doctor can treat IBS with prescription medication.

The best way to control and/or eliminate ones symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome is to change ones personal diet and lifestyle. If pain and symptoms continue after diet and lifestyle changes a doctor can prescribe IBS medication such as amitisa. One can also use stool softeners, laxatives, and/or other medications to help with constipation and diarrhea. A doctor will also advise a patient to use a fiber supplement twice a day (with breakfast and dinner).

Living with IBS

Diet and Lifestyle Change

After being diagnosed with IBS one should reevaluate ones diet and lifestyle. Before taking prescription medication to alleviate symptoms one should first change ones diet and avoid foods and beverages that may worsen symptoms and pain.

The foods and beverages people with IBS should limit or exclude from ones diet include (but are not limited to):

  • Caffeine

  • Alcohol

  • Foods High in Fat

  • Foods High in Sugar

  • Milk Products

  • Gas-Producing Foods (such as broccoli, cabbage, beans, etc)

  • Artificial Sweeteners

Drinking plenty of water, the use of natural fiber supplements, and regular exercise also reduce signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Also, one should eat small, healthy meals as well as eating slowly, and eating in a quiet, relaxing place will reduce the signs and symptoms of IBS.

Exercise along with a healthy diet, limiting the intake of foods high in sugar, fat, caffeine, alcohol, etc will greatly improve ones signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Exercise and healthy diet help boost the speed of ones metabolism, which will improve ones digestion dramatically.

By reducing ones consumption of stimulants one can control the abdominal pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Ones bowel habits are a very personal and difficult matter to discuss with anyone (without throwing a bathroom joke in there once or twice), but if IBS goes undiagnosed and untreated, one can experience terrible abdominal pains that may begin to affect ones lifestyle. If and when one forgets about the personal embarrassment of talking about ones bowel habits, one can live a much more productive lifestyle without the pain and problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Have you ever experienced intestinal distress?

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My Sypmtoms

  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Severe and Sudden Pain
  • Sharp, Stabbing Pain
  • Lack of Gas
  • Decrease in Bowel Movement
  • Change in Stool Consistency
  • Mucus in Stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness

Intercourse would worsen symptoms

Eating large meals would worsen symptoms

Eating fat and sugar would worsen symptoms

Drinking alcohol would worsen symptoms

Drinking an access of caffeine would worsen symptoms

My Story

I have just recently been diagnosed with IBS, but before I was diagnosed I suffered from severe abdominal pain and intestinal distress for over three months. The pain was so severe that I could not move or stand straight. The pain would come suddenly throughout the day, stopping me dead in my tracks which effected my productivity and efficiency with my daily responsibilities.

At first I adapted to a healthier lifestyle and altered my diet. I began to exercise more frequently (when the pain was manageable, at the least), and I began to keep track and limit the amount of fat and sugar I was consuming. I also started to take a fiber supplement once or twice a day to help aid in better digestion. I researched different intestinal diseases and complications, and altered my diet and lifestyle as my knowledge grew, but my symptoms and pain continued, and my irrational fear of the doctors office prevented me from receiving the help I so desperately needed to control my pain.

Eventually, I grew tired of my constant belly ache in where the pain would grow so severe that I could not stand or move when that sudden pain hit.

I saw several different doctors, non of them could diagnose or treat me, and the only advice I received was to use over-the-counter medication such as stool softeners, laxatives, and pain medication.

I followed this advice for over a month, and I soon grew sick by the amount of medication I was taking to help control my symptoms, but my symptoms were still controlling me (even worse than before).

I then decided to schedule an appointment with a gastrointestinal specialist.

The appointment with the GI specialist was very simple, strictly routine, and not invasive at all.

He asked simple questions about my symptoms and family history, felt, poked, and pressed on my abdomen, and listened to the gurgling, popping, and rumbling of my intestines.

In about thirty minutes the GI specialist had diagnosed me with what he believed to be irritable bowel syndrome, gave me nutritional advice and had written a prescription to help better control my symptoms (where diet was lacking).

Now that I have a better understanding of my new restrictive diet, and have been taking my prescription medication (for over a month) I feel one hundred percent better and can lead the life I was prior to my sudden pain and symptoms associated with my irritable bowel syndrome.

No one likes to talk about color, consistency, and texture of ones stools, but when one is experiencing abnormal symptoms that begin to control and affect ones lifestyle, a discussion with a doctor is necessary.

My advice is (to anyone who is looking for it) if you are experience any type of abnormal pain or discomfort, one should seek medical attention as soon as possible.



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    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Done! :)

    • JamiJay profile image

      Jami Johnson 4 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      Of course you can link this to your hub :)

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Hey Jami! I am writing about bowel obstructions and would like to link this to my hub, with your permission! Thank you!

    • JamiJay profile image

      Jami Johnson 4 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      It is so true, so many people go undiagnosed because they are embarrassed to talk about it. My symptoms are much better with diet and exercise (but the more I learn the more I tweak my diet and the better I feel). I hope to be able to control my symptoms naturally so I no longer have to be on the medication.

      And, this belly picture is after my baby. After my daughter was a year old I went through a lifestyle change, began to exercise regularly, completely changed my diet and I lost 40 pounds (I worked hard for this belly) ;)

    • Boisegal profile image

      Holly 4 years ago from Boise, ID

      I have IBS. It's so common, yet most people don't like to talk about it. The funny thing is, when I joined the Air Force and went to bootcamp (where diet and exercise are very controlled), symptoms completely went away. For me, it doesn't have to do with stress, but simply diet and exercise. I can't eat fast food or foods with lots of oils. On a side note, I hope that tummy picture was BEFORE your baby, otherwise, I hate you!!

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Great job, Jami! This is informative and easy to understand. I like the way you set it up. I am glad you are feeling better! Up, useful and interesting!