IBS Symptoms

Common IBS symptoms are the sudden and urgent onset of diarrhea and abdominal cramping. This commonly occurs following a meal or a snack, or after eating specific foods. This sometimes may result in loss of continence before reaching a bathroom.

IBS is thought to occur due to hypersensitivity of the gastrointestinal tract to common stimuli found in the diet and due to emotional disturbances (anxiety, stress, depression).

The trigger event then leads to involuntary, powerful contractions of the digestive tract, typically resulting in diarrhea. Episodes of constipation may alternate with these “flare-ups”.

Women are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome than men.

Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms:

  • sudden onset of painful diarrhea (typically following a meal)
  • alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation
  • lower abdominal cramps
  • lower abdominal aches
  • bloating
  • gas
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • depression

Diagnosis is typically through physical examination, blood and stool testing, and colonoscopy (of the sigmoid colon). However, these methods are typically used to rule out the presence of other diseases that can cause abdominal pain and bowel dysfunction (i.e. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease).

Treatment is typically with monitoring of triggering foodstuffs and their avoidance. Consumption of multiple, smaller meals rather than 3 larger daily meals has been shown to be effective in reducing “flare-ups”.