An estimated 48 million Americans live with the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a long-term digestive disorder that’s often unpredictable. Symptoms vary from person to person, often change over time, and range from very mild to severe enough to interfere with your daily life.
Figuring out if you have IBS is tricky, since the symptoms mimic other digestive conditions. You must see a gastroenterologist for a comprehensive work up and formal diagnosis. If you’re trying to pin down whether or not IBS is responsible for your symptoms, review the following signs and discuss it with Dr. Pothuri when you come in to see us at GastroDoxs.
Pain and cramping in the lower abdominal area is one of the most common symptoms of IBS. Most people with IBS experience cramping, usually after a meal. What sets the cramping experienced by IBS sufferers apart is that it’s usually relieved by having a bowel movement. If you suspect you may have IBS, try keeping a diary of your daily symptoms. Take note of when cramping occurs and whether it goes away after a bowel movement.
Chronic loose stools are another common IBS symptom. The average person can expect to get hit with a bout of diarrhea a couple of times a year. However, people with IBS experience diarrhea very often, and it usually occurs after eating.
Not everyone with IBS suffers from chronic diarrhea, when they do its referred to as diarrhea predominant IBS, or IBS-D.
Stress worsens symptoms
Stress is part of everyday life. Although IBS is not caused simply by stress, you may have IBS if you find that life’s daily stressors make your digestive symptoms worse. It’s not completely clear how stress is linked to IBS. Your brain sends signals to your digestive system and vice versa. It’s thought that stress may disrupt the gut-brain pathway, leading to an increase in symptom severity.
There’s evidence that by keeping stress under control can ease or even sometimes prevent IBS symptoms. Next time you’re under stress, pay attention to your digestive symptoms. Do they get worse? If the answer is yes, you may be on to something.
Changes in bowel habits
It’s typical to unpredictably cycle between constipation and diarrhea if you have IBS. It may seem like there’s no rhyme or reason to the sudden changes. One day you may notice dry, hard-to-pass stools only to find you’re passing loose, watery stools the very next day. Some experts think people with IBS have a disrupted communication system in the gut and that the signals have gone haywire, resulting in unpredictable bowel habits.
Some people track their symptoms and find a link to certain foods, and some experts believe IBS may represent multiple food sensitivities. Roughly 65% of IBS patients report that their symptoms are linked to specific foods. However, most people with IBS test negative for true food allergies.
That doesn’t mean certain foods aren’t provoking your symptoms though. The foods most frequently identified as causing problems for IBS patients include:
Other foods and substances that may trigger IBS symptoms include fried and processed foods, chocolate, high-fructose corn syrup, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, onions, and garlic.
Many of the IBS patients we see complain of bloating. The distinctive aspect of IBS bloating is that it typically occurs in the evening. You may feel fine for the entire day, and then as soon as the day winds down you find yourself dealing with a stomach that feels like it has a basketball in it. The bloating may be accompanied by pain and cramping.
Many foods in the diet are gas producing, but patients with IBS experience excessive gas. The gas may cause abdominal pain and bloating and may come and go unpredictably. While gas can be embarrassing to talk about, it’s one of the easier IBS symptoms to control through dietary changes.
When to see a doctor
See a gastroenterologist if you’re having any unusual digestive symptoms. IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion. This means Dr. Pothuri rules out other potential causes of your digestive distress. Symptoms common in IBS are also common in other digestive disorders, so it’s important to get to the bottom of the gastrointestinal distress you’re experiencing.
There is hope for IBS patients. For proper diagnosis and effective treatment schedule an appointment with Dr. Pothuri by calling our office or booking online today.