Sometimes an upset stomach might be more than an upset stomach. Frequently using the bathroom or having stomach trouble after eating certain foods can be signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
March is IBS Awareness Month, and it’s important to know the basics about IBS. The National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NLM) has information about IBS at medlineplus.gov/irritablebowelsyndrome.html. Here are some questions and answers to help you start learning more about IBS.
What is IBS?
IBS primarily affects the large intestine. It causes discomfort and other issues, but does not harm the intestines. Usually found in those under 45, IBS is fairly common and affects twice as many women as men. There are a range of symptoms and treatments, but the main cause of IBS is unknown.
What are the symptoms of IBS?
IBS typically causes anything from a change in bowel habits to abdominal cramps to bloating. Some people experience constipation. Others struggle with diarrhea, and some shift from one to the other. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, women with IBS experience worse symptoms during their periods.
How is IBS diagnosed?
There are no specific tests doctors run to pinpoint IBS, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms. Your doctor will typically run through your symptoms and look for patterns to help diagnose IBS. Doctors may also perform tests to check for other diseases, including a colonoscopy, a stool sample collection, blood test or X-ray.
What are the treatment options for IBS?
IBS can be managed through a variety of treatment options. Dieting, stress management, probiotics and other medicines are all common ways doctors treat IBS. Choosing the correct treatment also depends on which symptoms of IBS you struggle with the most.
IBS doesn’t have to be a struggle if you’re armed with the right information and the correct treatment plan. If you think you might have IBS, schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you’ve been living with IBS, talk to your doctor to choose treatments that work in addressing your specific IBS symptoms.
Learn more about IBS at niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases.