When you’re not feeling well, it can certainly put a damper on day-to-day life. Of course, everyone expects colds and viruses a few times throughout the year, but typically those are fleeting and pass quickly. If you find that you have abdominal and gastrointestinal upset much more often than you should, it could be indicative of a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Read on to learn about the signs and symptoms, and when you should schedule an appointment to see your doctor.
What Is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is known as a functional gastrointestinal disorder. Essentially, it is the result of poor communication between the gut and the brain. Doctors and researchers are not entirely sure why some patients suffer from IBS, while others don’t. Some experts think that it’s related to stress or a sensitivity to certain foods. While everyone may get a touch of gas, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea now and again, symptoms like these are hallmarks of IBS. Women are much more likely to suffer from IBS than men, and it’s estimated that about 12 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from the condition.
Watching for Symptoms
There are no IBS symptoms that are terribly alarming. You may notice these symptoms are more bothersome over time. Generally speaking, if you’re suffering from any gastrointestinal upset for more than a few days to a week or repeatedly, you should contact your physician. But there are other symptoms of IBS that can affect a patient’s quality of life.
IBS may cause pain, cramps, gas, and bloating. The pain is typically felt in the lower abdomen, and you may also feel pain or cramping while attempting to have a bowel movement. Gas and bloating will likely appear together, as bloating is a result of excessive gas.
Both diarrhea and constipation can be symptoms of IBS. If you find that either diarrhea or constipation last longer than a few days, you should let your doctor know. Constipation can also be caused by dehydration, so doctors recommend to always have your daily recommended intake of water.
Those with IBS may also feel fatigued, and/or feel brain fog. Brain fog is another way to describe mental confusion or foggy thinking. Fatigue as it relates to IBS may occur with psychological symptoms or other bowel-related symptoms.
Those with IBS may also have a certain sensitivity to foods. If you find that you have reactions or symptoms after eating foods like onions, garlic, avocados, lentils, beans, almonds, or cashews, let your doctor know. These foods are part of fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (FODMAP) foods, and may cause issues with those who have IBS.
Other IBS-related symptoms include joint pain and feeling stressed, which may occur separately, together, or not at all.
Getting the Diagnosis
Unfortunately, IBS symptoms are also common symptoms of many other conditions and problems. Symptoms associated with IBS may also be indicative of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or dumping syndrome. The best way to find out if you’re suffering from IBS or some other condition is to get the proper diagnosis from your doctor. There are many IBS treatments available to improve your quality of life.
If you need more information on irritable bowel syndrome or would like to be seen by a physician, contact Carolina Digestive Health Associates today to book an appointment. We have eight convenient office locations to suit all of your GI needs.