Font Size
A
A
A

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (cont.)

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

IBS affects each person differently. The hallmark of IBS in adults and children is abdominal discomfort or pain. The following signs and symptoms also are common:

  • Abdominal cramping and pain that are relieved with bowel movements
  • Alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation
    • Those who mostly have diarrhea as a symptom are considered to have IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), characterized by sudden urges to have bowel movements, along with loose stools, , frequent stools, abdominal pain and discomfort, gas, and the feeling of being unable to completely empty the bowels. In severe cases of IBS-D, individuals may lose control of their bowels.
    • Those who mostly have constipation as a symptom are considered to have IBS with constipation (IBS-C), characterized by passage of hard, lumpy stools, straining during bowel movements, and infrequent stools
  • Change in the stool frequency or consistency
  • Gassiness (flatulence)
  • Passing mucus from the rectum
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal distension
  • Loss of appetite

Though not a symptom of IBS, indigestion affects up to 70% of people with IBS.

The following are NOT signs and symptoms or characteristics of IBS (but should still be brought to the attention of a health-care professional since they may be signs and symptoms of other conditions):

When Should You Seek Medical Care If You Think You Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

If a person has any of the symptoms of IBS as discussed previously, or if a person with known IBS has unusual symptoms, a health-care professional should be consulted. Go to a hospital emergency department if problems are severe and/or come on suddenly.

How Do You Know If You Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Tests and Diagnosis?

IBS can be difficult to diagnose. IBS is called a diagnosis of exclusion, which means a doctor considers many other alternatives first, performing tests to rule out other medical problems. Some of these tests may include laboratory studies, imaging studies (such as a CT scan or small intestinal X-rays), and endoscopy and/or colonoscopy). An endoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible tube with a tiny camera at one end is passed into the GI tract while the patient is under conscious sedation. A combination of history, physical examination, and selected tests are used to help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. No single blood test or X-ray study confirms the diagnosis of IBS.

What Natural Home Remedies and Diet Changes Treat and Relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms?

Most people with IBS have symptoms only occasionally and the following measures may treat or soothe symptoms during a flare:

  • Add fiber to the diet: Fiber theoretically expands the inside of the digestive tract, reducing the chance it will spasm as it transmits and digests food. Fiber also promotes regular bowel movements, which helps reduce constipation. Fiber should be added gradually, because it may initially worsen bloating and gassiness. People with IBS-D should look for foods with more soluble fiber, the type that takes longer to digest (such as that found in oats, beans, barley, peas, apples, carrots, and citrus fruits).
  • Reduce stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety may cause IBS "flares." Health-care professionals may offer specific advice on reducing stress. The following may help reduce stress and problems associated with IBS:
    • Eat regular balanced meals.
    • Reduce caffeine intake.
    • Exercise may help reduce stress.
    • Smoking may worsen symptoms of IBS, which is another good reason to quit.

Other home remedies to soothe and lessen IBS symptoms include:

  • Increase fiber in the diet
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid soda, which may cause gas and abdominal discomfort
  • Eat smaller meals to help lessen the incidence of cramping and diarrhea.
  • Low fat and high carbohydrate meals such as pasta, rice, and whole grain breads may help IBS symptoms (unless the person has celiac disease).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/29/2016

Must Read Articles Related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Constipation (Adults)
Constipation in Adults Constipation in adults refers to difficulty in passing stools or a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements. Causes of learn more >>
Constipation in Children (Infants)
Constipation in Children

Constipation in infants and children affects up to 10% of children at any given time. Causes of constipation in infants and children include:

  • ...
learn more >>
Diarrhea
Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, parasites, intestinal diseases or conditions, reactions to medications, and learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Symptoms

What are your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Diagnosis

How was the diagnosis of your irritable bowel syndrome established?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Experience

What changes have you had to make to your routine since being diagnosed with IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Foods to Avoid

What foods aggravate IBS? What foods and lifestyle changes have helped you mange IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Medications

What medications have you tried to treat IBS symptoms, and what have been effective?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - Preventive

What prevention measures do you use to avoid getting IBS?


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Irritable Bowel Disease »

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional GI disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of specific and unique organic pathology.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary