IBS can cause nausea, bloating and other digestive problems. Severe gastrointestinal symptoms can affect sleep and daytime fatigue.
IBS can complicate weight loss and improve weight loss after weight loss.
IBS-related digestive symptoms may make it more difficult for people to do activities they enjoy, such as travel, exercise or riding motorcycles.
In contrast, a person who has normal bowel movements may feel more comfortable visiting the local dentist, social events, senior centers, college campuses and other social gatherings.
Effects on behavior. IBS can influence behavior, particularly over time. In particular, feelings of irritable stomach and constipation can increase anxiety. Many people with IBS report worsening behavior after other digestive illnesses. For example, people with severe intestinal problems often report more anxiety and depression and more trouble with substance abuse.
What to do if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you think you have IBS, most people can reduce or manage their symptoms by avoiding triggers for gastrointestinal symptoms.
This may involve avoiding trigger foods or beverages, which help reduce bloating and IBS-related stomach discomfort. Many people with IBS use regular exercise, stress management, a healthy diet and acupuncture to manage their symptoms.
Sitting more often.
Sitting less often may help reduce IBS symptoms. Many people with IBS sit much more frequently than people without the condition.
However, research suggests that sitting less often may help prevent the symptoms from worsening. This suggests that avoiding sitting when symptoms worsen may be helpful.
On the other hand, avoiding any sitting may lead to worse symptoms, regardless of whether you sit more or less frequently.
Changing the times you go to work or school, the frequency of your bowel movements, or the foods you eat or beverages you drink may help manage IBS symptoms.
If the symptoms seem to get worse when you change routines or stop doing activities that are sometimes helpful, consider reducing the frequency or duration of any changes to your daily routine.
A nutritionist or certified dietitian can help people with IBS establish a diet and lifestyle regimen that improves symptoms and can also help manage overall health.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There are many ways in which IBS presents in patients, including:
- Cramping or cramping in the abdominal area, pain or pressure in the abdomen, and persistent bloating.
- Bloody stools.
- Bags or watery stools.
- A strong urge to go to the bathroom.
- Irritable stomach.
- Dysmotility, in which the movements of the digestive system are slow or delayed.
- Problems passing stool.
- A headache or nausea, but not nausea associated with an intestinal infection.
- Abdominal pain associated with the stomach.
- Aching abdomen.
- A weak heartbeat or an abnormal heart rhythm.
- Changes in eating habits, including going back to foods that cause discomfort.
Diagnostic tests to rule out other diseases.
Your doctor may recommend stool testing to detect the presence of other diseases, including:
- Tuberculosis, which could cause trouble with your colon and lower intestines, and a thick, sticky stool.
- E. coli, which is a common cause of diarrhea and, possibly, cramps.
- Escherichia coli, which causes bloody diarrhea, and causes intestinal blockages that can lead to death.
- Parasites. Your doctor might order stool tests to rule out the presence of parasites in your digestive tract, especially if you have a history of intestinal problems or if you have chronic diarrhea. Parasites can cause severe diarrhea, cramps, nausea and fatigue. They are more likely to show up in the stool tests of people with IBS. Parasites are usually in the stool and not in the blood.
- Imaging tests to determine the cause of your symptoms. MRI scans or CAT scans may be necessary for people who have infections.
- CT scans may be used to detect blockages in your intestines. If you have a blockage, a CT scan might also allow your doctor to insert a smaller, flexible tube through your nose and directly into your small intestine, so that you can relieve the blockage by pushing it with your rectum.
Taking the right medication, when prescribed, can help you manage your symptoms.
Natural treatments for IBS that aren’t well studied, but you can try:
- Exercises. Sitting for long periods can put strain on your colon, stomach and other organs. Try a simple exercise that will strengthen your core muscles (posture) and improve your circulation. For a short video of a seated sit-up, click here.
- Colon cleanse. You can cleanse your colon with a diet cola or other products that stimulate the liver to filter toxins out of your feces. You can also use laxatives. But because laxatives can make you very sick, it’s best to follow your doctor’s advice for what to use.
- Magnesium. Studies show that high doses of magnesium may improve the symptoms of IBS. Many people are surprised to learn that the mineral may play an important role in controlling gut motility. Magnesium also may help prevent the symptoms of IBS from increasing when food, digestive juices and sugars come back into your body. Magnesium supplements might be helpful if your doctor has recommended that you take a different medication.
The percentage of the U.S. population with IBS varies widely, from 0.5 percent to 9 percent. But up to 16 percent of people with IBS also have Celiac disease, so both diseases could be misdiagnosed and treated in the same person.
The rate of IBS varies in different cultures, but the estimated prevalence of IBS among adults worldwide is between 0.5 and 4 percent, including those with other gastrointestinal conditions.
Who has IBS?
Among women in the United States, IBS tends to affect more people under age 30. However, in some African American and Asian populations, the rate of IBS can be as high as 19 percent, and it affects more women than men. In some studies, women have been found to have higher rates of IBS than men.
Women, especially women who have just given birth, are more likely to have IBS than men.
In a 2017 study of nearly 18,000 people, women were found to have more IBS than men in every racial and ethnic group.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have IBS that has become chronic, causing diarrhea and constipation.
Is IBS contagious?
IBS is not contagious, but it’s difficult to diagnose whether other people have IBS, because it can be mistaken for other conditions. So, if you’re caring for someone who has IBS, and you’re unsure if they have IBS, ask them about their symptoms. If you think they might have IBS, you might want to ask them about their bowel habits, including bowel habits that are different from the normal, and any pain or discomfort they’re experiencing.
It’s especially important to get medical help if your friend or family member has a GI tract problem that interferes with their everyday activities, such as pain when they eat, vomiting after eating, needing to go to the bathroom frequently or having a change in bowel habits.