Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel SyndromePeople with IBS have chronic abdominal (stomach) pain or discomfort and changes in bowel habits. To make the diagnosis, healthcare providers will look for pain or discomfort that has occurred at least three times per month for the past three months. Some other characteristics of this pain or discomfort include:
- The pain is relieved by having a bowel movement
- The onset of pain is associated with a change in the frequency of stools
- The onset of pain is associated with a change in stool consistency (i.e., diarrhea or constipation).
Other symptoms that may be present include mucus in the stool, bloating, intestinal gas, or nausea.
Because IBS shares similar symptoms with other conditions, the healthcare provider will first rule out these conditions before diagnosing IBS.
(Click Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms for more information on possible symptoms. You can also read Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome to learn about tests that might be recommended, along with other conditions that share similar symptoms.)
Treating Irritable Bowel SyndromeMost people can control their symptoms through diet, stress management, and medications.
There have been many studies looking at the possible impact of diet on IBS symptoms. The results have been inconclusive. No single food or groups of food have been shown to absolutely affect a person with IBS.
The key to dietary changes is to understand that foods that can worsen (or improve) symptoms and then see how these foods affect you (see Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet).
Stress is thought to increase IBS symptoms in some people. This is why healthcare providers may recommend stress reduction techniques. The specific recommendation will depend on the severity of your symptoms and your particular situation. Exercise, yoga, and meditation are some options. Your healthcare provider may also recommend counseling (see Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Stress).
Unlike other chronic health conditions, medication may or may not be helpful for people with IBS. Healthcare providers may choose to prescribe medications if they believe they will help ease a person's main IBS symptoms.
Some different types of IBS medications include:
- Antidiarrheal medicines
- Antianxiety medications
- Medicines specifically approved to treat IBS.
(Click IBS Medications for more information on these different types of medicines.)