Do you find yourself dealing with frequent stomach pain? Are you worried about attending social events because you are triggered by certain foods, or you find yourself urgently needing to use the restroom? These signs, among others, may indicate that you are experiencing irritable bowel syndrome.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis. IBS is a disorder of the large intestine which can cause some uncomfortable bowel related pain and difficulty using the restroom. Many people may have flareups regularly, with other IBS sufferers only having them occasionally. There are also different forms of IBS–IBS with constipation, IBS with diarrhea, and IBS with mixed bowel habits. One of the most notable things about IBS, and what can make it challenging to diagnose, is that it does not show up on physical diagnostic tests. It is what is referred to as a functional gastrointestinal disorder, with diagnosis based on symptoms alone. Unlike other gastrointestinal disorders, IBS does not cause physical damage to the gastrointestinal system. To make things more confusing, many gi conditions share similar symptoms. It is best to leave a full diagnosis to your doctor.

If IBS Isn’t Diagnosed With Physical Testing, How do I Know I Have it?

Although IBS can vary greatly between patients, there are certain hallmarks of the disease that are common and go beyond general GI discomfort. If you experience either diarrhea or constipation frequently, or even vacillate between the two regularly, that is one of the key diagnostic symptoms. Although it may seem odd to some, since diarrhea and constipation are two extremes when it comes to passing a bowel movement, they’re actually related. They both come as a result of the muscles in your gut not contracting properly. With diarrhea muscles are contracting too frequently, with constipation, they’re contracting too slowly. Other symptoms that occur in your gut include bloating, excessive gas, and pain and cramping.

Those symptoms which are directly and physically related to the gut are typically more noticeable and more directly associated with IBS than other symptoms. People who suffer from IBS might also feel stressed more frequently, experience joint pain, might experience mental confusion, impaired judgment, trouble concentrating, and they may constantly feel fatigued and tired.

Is There A Cure For IBS? 

There is currently not a cure for IBS, but with the help of a doctor, you can learn how to manage your symptoms. Book an appointment today to visit the team at Asheville Gastroenterology, a division of Digestive Health Partners, so we can help you understand your condition and learn how best to manage it. Learning how to manage your symptoms, along with other lifestyle modifications, may be the key for you to live with IBS comfortably.