What are the symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome?
The symptoms of IBS can be debilitating and may be affecting your everyday life.
IBS is an extremely common condition and in the UK alone, it affects approximately 1 in 5 people.
The symptoms of IBS vary greatly from one person to another and will require a tailored treatment approach rather than a standard protocol or recommendations.
Unfortunately, IBS is a condition that is still poorly understood and diagnosing IBS can still be difficult as some symptoms can overlap with other conditions including inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.
In this article, I will explain what the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are.
According to the NHS the main symptoms of IBS are:
Stomach pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after having a bowel movement
Bloating – your tummy may feel uncomfortably full and swollen
Diarrhoea – you may have watery poo and sometimes need to poo suddenly
Constipation – you may strain when pooing and feel like you can't empty your bowels fully
IBS can also cause:
Wind and flatulence and gas
Passing mucus from your bottom
Problems urinating – feeling the need to urinate frequently
Urgency to go to the toilet (Diarrhea or loose stools or normal stools)
These symptoms are not part of IBS and require medical Attention:
•suddenly losing weight without any reason
•bleeding from your bottom or seeing blood in your stool
•a hard lump in your stomach area and a lot of swelling in your tummy
50% of people with IBS suffer from constipation, this is known as IBS-C. Constipation is defined as having less than 3 bowel movements per week, however you should be having at least 1 bowel movement per day to ensure proper health. If you are suffering from constipation you may have a slow transit time and experience symptoms such as bloating, heaviness, headaches and sluggishness.
What causes IBS-C?:
A slow transit time, food intolerances and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth have been some of the leading cause of constipation for some or our patients we see at out clinic. We often run tests to see food intolerances if are culprits; often patients who have non- celiac gluten sensitivity do extremely well without-gluten. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can also be the culprit for constipation, particularly for patients who have an overgrowth of methane dominant bacteria. With IBS, your colon is more sensitive than normal. It can react to things like stress, bacteria, and even certain foods. You may want to consider seeing a nutritional therapist that can help identify Food Intolerances or bacterial overgrowth.
We see many patients who have incomplete bowel movements, often feeling that have not completely evacuated. In some cases, Parasites have been the cause. We offer parasite testing at at our clinic.
For some patients simply drinking more water, eat more vegetables (soluble fibre) and sometimes supplements such as magnesium and probiotics can help you increase transit time.
Approximately one third of patients with IBS in the UK experience diarrhea.
If you are experiencing watery stools and diarrhea then these symptoms may be linked to IBS-D. You may also be experiencing urgency to go to the loo, mucus and are worried about going to work or participating in social occasions. You may find extremely social situations extremely stressful and are avoiding them for fear of a sudden onset of diarrhea. You may be taking a lot of over the counter supplements such as Imodium to get you through work or social situations. This is not ideal as you will be merely masking the symptoms. Ideally you should try and identify the culprits. You may have no idea what is causing your IBS-D symptoms. If you have ruled out any medical issues such as Chrons or Ulcerative colitis, you may want to consider seeing a nutritional therapist or visiting our IBS clinic that to help identify possible underlying causes. You may be suffering from foods intolerances – often lactose is a culprit or a fungal infection such as Candida . If you also experience a lot of wind you may have a bacterial overgrowth or a parasite.
Can I be tested for IBS-D?:
Currently a test that tells you if you have IBS-D (or any kind of IBS) does not exist. However, at our clinic we will look at your health history and symptoms. We may recommend parasite tests, Candida tests, food intolerance tests or SIBO (Hydrogen Breath tests) to check for bacterial overgrowth. All of these areas may be linked to IBS-D.
Abdominal Pain and Cramping:
Abdominal pain and cramping are frequently reported. The pain can be in the lower abdomen or upper abdomen. You may benefit from reviewing your diet. We can help you with the low FODMAP diet, the SCD diet, the anti-candida diet and the elimination diet. If you feel a lot of wind and flatulence after eating, you may have an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast or are not breaking down your foods properly.
Alternating Constipation and Diarrhea are common IBS Symptoms:
About 20% of IBS patients experience a combination of mixed symptoms. They have alternating constipation and diarrhea. Sometimes they are constipated for 5-6 days and then have diarrhea. This is a mechanism for the body to relieve itself of toxins.
Recurring pain is also common for patients who have Diarrhea and constipation.
Sometimes pain and cramping can be linked to food intolerances, some patients have a delayed reaction to foods and may feel cramping 3 days after they have eaten an abundance of the food in question. For others pain may be linked to severe constipation. A number of my patients have told me they ended up in A&E for severe pain. The diagnosis was severe constipation, and they didn’t even know it! Stress can also be linked to pain and cramping. Some patients experience involuntary muscle spasms.