Is your indigestion a sign of something more? Here are 10 symptoms of IBS to look out for.
Suffering from a gastrointestinal problem–be it constipation, diarrhoea, or excessive gas–is no walk in the park. To make matters worse, it isn’t exactly an easy topic to bring up at the dinner table. Can you imagine discussing your bowel movement to your brother- or sister-in-law over Sunday Roast?
You’re probably already trembling from thinking of the awkward silence and shifty side glances. As a result, there’s no way to know if what you’re experiencing is typical (especially after an indulgent meal) or if you’re suffering from something more–like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Here we look at 10 symptoms of IBS to help you work out what you’re experiencing.
What is IBS?
What are the 10 symptoms of IBS?
Generally, IBS involves abdominal discomfort plus altered bowel movements, but these symptoms can also be accompanied by others that may appear unrelated, like anxiety, depression, and tiredness. More on that below.
#1 – Abdominal pain and cramping
One of the most common of our 10 symptoms of IBS is abdominal pain. This is often described by sufferers as spasms, cramping, dull aching, and overall general stomach discomfort. This pain is believed to stem from a breakdown in the cooperative signals between the hormones, nerves, and signals released by gut bacteria. Problematically this leads to uncoordinated and painful tension in the muscles of the digestive tract. For some individuals, IBS pain decreases following a bowel movement or passing gas.
#2 – Gas and bloating
Perhaps the most embarrassing and disturbing of the 10 symptoms of IBS is the uncontrollable gassiness. Publicly passing gas (especially in an otherwise quiet environment) can be downright humiliating. Even though doctors are still trying to figure out the exact reason behind this gassiness, there are 2 popular theories:of
- Gut bacteria – The strains of bacteria in the gut, also known as microbiota, may differ in people with IBS compared to a healthy individual. If the ‘bad’ bacteria outnumber the ‘good,’ gassiness can result.
- Slowed passage of waste material – Bowel contractions can be weaker in IBS sufferers. As a result, the passage of waste material in the gut slows and gas becomes trapped. This can then result in increased gassiness.
#3 – Diarrhea
Something worthy to note is that for certain IBS-D sufferers, the urgency is so significant that they may be fearful of, or actually experience, bathroom accidents. Naturally this is undoubtedly a significant source of stress.
#4 – Constipation
#5 – Alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation
Guess what’s worse than suffering from diarrhoea or constipation alone? Experiencing alternating bouts of both, of course! This is known as alternating-type IBS (IBS-A) and affects about 20% of IBS sufferers. Swinging between these 2 extremes can happen over months, weeks, or even in the same day!
#6 – Food intolerance
#7 – Anxiety or depression
Given the amount of mental distress IBS can cause, it’s no surprise that the symptoms of IBS include anxiety and depression. According to a large 2015 study, individuals with IBS were 70% more likely to have a mood disorder, such as depression, and 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder. So while it’s still unclear which precedes which (i.e. do anxiety and depression come first, or does IBS come first?), one thing’s sure: mood disorders and IBS symptoms reinforce one another in a vicious cycle.
#8 – Loss of appetite
#9 – Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
#10 – Changes in bowel movements
It can be a serious problem–especially if your stool is black and tarry. That indicates bleeding in the upper part of your digestive tract. Bright red blood or maroon-coloured blood, on the other hand, usually indicates a problem in the lower part of your digestive tract, including haemorrhoids or diverticulitis (infection or inflammation of pouches that can form in your intestines).
Suspect you have IBS?
Did you catch yourself nodding away to most (if not all) of the 10 IBS symptoms listed above? If IBS is adversely impacting your quality of life, you may want to visit a doctor who can help rule out other diseases, diagnose you with IBS–and perhaps most importantly, guide you through the process of identifying your unique triggers and finding ways to alleviate your symptoms. But if after reading this guide to the 10 symptoms of IBS you want to talk to a specialist then we are here. Remember: you don’t have to suffer in silence! Help is readily available.