6 Signs of IBS and What to Do About It

May 7th 2016

IBS is not a pleasant condition, but knowing the symptoms lets you recognize it early and develop a treatment plan. Many people are able to keep their symptoms under control simply by changing their diets.

Abdominal Pain

One of the most obvious symptoms of IBS is frequent, recurring abdominal pain. This pain generally occurs in the same area, below the chest but higher than the hips. It may be accompanied by other symptoms at the same time, or it may occur on its own. IBS pain generally gets better after a bowel movement.

Gas and Bloating

Many people with IBS experience frequent gas and bloating. This may be bad enough to cause mild pain at times. Some people simply feel bloated, while others experience visible abdominal distension. This may occur on a regular basis or only after eating certain foods.

Changes in Bowel Movements

Sudden changes in bowel movements are a common early symptom of IBS. This can take the form of diarrhea or constipation. Some people experience only one symptom, while others alternate between the two. If you have IBS, you may also notice mucus in your feces. However, IBS generally does not cause bloody stools. That may be a sign of a more serious illness.

Trigger Foods

Many people notice their symptoms only occur or get worse after eating certain foods. This can vary somewhat by the individual, but legumes and cruciferous vegetables are known triggers. These include cauliflower, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, arugula, kale and broccoli, among others. Many people with IBS keep a food diary to note foods they cannot eat without symptoms.

General Symptoms

IBS often causes other symptoms throughout the body and may be associated with some other chronic illnesses. Many people experience depression, anxiety or fatigue. Some people may also suffer from insomnia, headaches and back pain. Urinary problems are also sometimes associated with IBS, including frequent urination or the inability to fully empty your bladder. Fibromyalgia is sometimes linked with IBS.

Lack of Other Causes

There is no direct test for IBS, so doctors diagnose it by looking at your symptoms and ruling out other causes. Lactose intolerance and celiac disease are frequently mistaken for IBS, but those conditions can be diagnosed by tests. Bacterial or parasitic infections can also sometimes cause the same symptoms, so your doctor may require a stool or blood test.


Irritable bowel syndrome is a common and uncomfortable problem, but it may take a little while to recognize and diagnose. Most people experience some of these symptoms occasionally, but if you find yourself experiencing them on a regular basis, it may be time to visit your doctor to see if you have IBS.

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