IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. It is one of the most common and (usually) treatable conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract, also known in everyday language as the digestive system.
Researchers and doctors haven’t yet discovered the exact causes of IBS, but the contributing factors might be chronic inflammation, food allergies or sensitivities, bacterial imbalances in the gut, chronic stress, or infection. Regardless of the cause, IBS produces several uncomfortable and often painful symptoms that will be discussed here.
With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month in April, now is a good time to review the many symptoms of IBS.
Pain in the stomach area is one of the most common symptoms of IBS. Many conditions can cause abdominal pain, so it’s important to visit a doctor for testing if you experience abdominal pain with an unknown cause. In IBS cases, the pain tends to come and go in episodes, as opposed to pain caused by other conditions that might persist without break.
Diarrhea, Constipation, and Other Changes to Bowel Habits
Although it might seem counterintuitive, IBS can trigger both diarrhea and constipation. For some individuals with IBS, that means alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation. Others might experience either one but not both.
Bloating is another common symptom of IBS. Often, the severity of the bloating diminishes after a bowel movement. The two primary drivers of bloating in people with IBS are increased gas production in the intestines and disturbed movements of the muscles that make up the intestines.
IBS can cause excess production of gas, or flatulence in the medical literature. The evidence shows that the disruption to the gut flora (the gut bacteria) creates additional gas as a byproduct, which must be pushed out through the normal channels.
Individuals with IBS are more likely than members of the general population to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Again, the mechanisms that drive fatigue in IBS patients are not fully understood yet, but the inflammation that IBS triggers, immune dysfunction, and gut flora imbalances (a common theme in IBS symptoms) might play a role.
One of the less common but still serious symptoms of IBS is joint pain. For example, IBS patients have higher rates of temporomandibular disorders (TMD), jaw issues that affect the bite, and can sometimes be extremely painful when left untreated.
As medical experts continue to learn more about what causes IBS and how best to prevent and treat it, we will learn more about how IBS triggers the symptoms described above. If you believe that you or a loved one might be experiencing IBS, seek the opinion of a doctor in your area.
Many doctors today, including those in our clinic, have switched to telehealth consultations with patients. When you schedule a digital appointment with your doctor, you don’t need to leave your home or pass the time in waiting rooms before your visit — just click to join the meeting and you are ready to explore all of your digestive health concerns together to determine the right course of treatment in your case.