Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that effects quite a number of Americans. In fact, it is thought that about one in five people in the United States, or about 20% of all adults, have IBS. IBS is also said to be responsible for about 50% or half of all the gastroenterologist visits each year.

Generally speaking, most IBS sufferers will, at some point, have to visit a gastroenterologist which is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of these types of conditions. IBS can be very uncomfortable. If you have it, it’s important to learn early on, about irritable bowel syndrome and how you can relieve some of your symptoms. However, before moving on to some things you can do about Irritable Bowel Syndrome it’s important to understand it.

Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS, as it is called for short, is also known as spastic colon. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is known as a disorder of function rather than structure. Meaning that if you have IBS, there are no identifiable abnormalities that your physician will have found that are apparent or visible during certain diagnostic exams which visualize your gastrointestinal system, such as  the colonoscopy or  sigmoidoscopy. Instead, there are issues regarding the functioning of your gastrointestinal system if you have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

IBS IBS Symptoms

IBS has a variety of symptoms associated with it. Identifying and listing your symptoms is a good first step so that you and your physician can get a head start on figuring out what’s wrong.

The most frequent IBS symptoms include:

· Pain in the Abdomen (lasting at least 12 weeks out of the previous 12 months) Need not be consecutive

· Cramping

· Bloating

· Pain that is relieved by having a bowel movement

· Constipation and/or Diarrhea

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if they recur frequently, it may be a very good idea to discuss these with your doctor.

In some individuals the symptoms can fluctuate: constipation and/or diarrhea may occur even all in the same day. Noticing a chance in the stool or bowel habits is often an early symptom of IBS.

It is also thought that patients with other conditions are more likely to suffer with IBS. If you have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, stress, or chronic pelvic pain there is thought to be a higher likelihood that you may experience IBS during your lifetime. Anyone with a type of auto-immune condition may also be pre-disposed to IBS.

Women who are menstruating may often find that if they have IBS, menstruation worsens their irritable bowel symptoms.

What To Do First If You Suspect You May Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Should you suspect that you may be experiencing IBS, the first step is to contact your doctor for an appointment. Proper diagnosis is always your #1 goal in  getting relief from a medical concern.

Your family physician may want to refer you to a gastroenterologist, a physician who specializes in disorders of the gastrointestinal tract,  for a more complete evaluation. It may be helpful for you to keep a symptom log noting the date/time and symptoms you are experiencing. Document your bowel habits especially noting what you ate, the symptoms you experienced, and anything you did to resolve the symptoms. In your symptom log  also note the amount of time that it took following a meal for you to experience the symptoms.


Some Common Questions Your Physician May Ask:

1.    Are you relieved from the pain after defecation?

2.    When you feel this way, is there a change in the frequency of your stool?

3.    When you are experiencing this pain, is there a change in the form or the way that your stool looks?
Note: color, consistency, amount of stool (Hard, lumpy, loose, watery, well formed, cylindrical)

4.    Do you have any blood in your stool? If so, how often, how much, and what color is the blood?

5. How many bowel movements per day do you have? More than three per day is not generally normal

6. Do you strain to have a bowel movement, or do you feel increased urgency to get to a bathroom? Are you able to completely finish your bowel movement?

7. Do you have mucus in your stools?

Blood work will also normally be performed as part of your initial diagnosis and workup.

And your physician should perform a physical examination of you in order to rule in or rule out Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There could be other things other than IBS which is causing you discomfort.  The most important thing is to document your symptoms and schedule an appointment with your doctor to have a full evaluation to determine what the problem is, and even more importantly, how to alleviate your symptoms.