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Signs You Have IBS, Say Physicians

Irritable bowel syndrome can have a serious effect on the quality of your life.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can be distressing and uncomfortable. It can have a serious effect on the quality of your life, and it may be connected to stressful circumstances you're already experiencing. Although the cause of IBS isn't totally known, there are steps you can take to reduce your symptoms and reduce flare-ups. These are the symptoms to watch for, according to physicians, and what you can do about them. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Signs You Have IBS

Young woman suffers, writhes in abdominal pain lying on couch in living room at home interior

"IBS typically presents as a combination of abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea and constipation," says Ashkan Farhadi, MD, gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Changes in the appearance of a bowel movement
  • Changes in how often you have a bowel movement
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion

What Causes IBS?


The causes of IBS aren't totally understood. Changes in the muscle contractions in the intestines—which cause stool to move along the digestive tract—and the nervous system may be at least partly responsible.

"There is a close association between IBS and psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression," says Farhadi. "Many individuals also report their symptoms started after a bout of severe gastroenteritis [stomach flu] or food poisoning."

It's not uncommon for IBS symptoms to begin after stressful life events like job loss, the death of a loved one, or the end of a relationship, he adds. People with a predisposition to IBS may see their symptoms worse during periods of stress, poor sleep, or tension at home or work.

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Risks of IBS

Woman stressed

According to the Mayo Clinic, you're at increased risk of developing IBS if you're:

  • Young. Most cases of IBS are diagnosed in people under 50.
  • Female
  • Have a family history of IBS
  • Have anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues

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When to See a Doctor

woman consulting with her female doctor

"If gastrointestinal symptoms prolong for more than a couple of weeks, or are associated with red flag signs such as weight loss, blood in the stool, loss of appetite, fevers or family history of colon cancer, I would suggest to seek professional consultation," says Farhadi.

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How IBS Is Treated


In most cases of IBS, symptoms are recurring and tend to fare up. "Exploring and finding the psychological stimulant as well as food items that aggravates symptoms is of paramount importance in managing IBS symptoms," says Farhadi. 

Your doctor may suggest creating a food diary to determine which foods might aggravate your IGS and refining your diet accordingly. They may also prescribe supplements or medications such as prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, or antibiotics to improve your gut health, which may alleviate symptoms. Antidepressants might also help manage depression and anxiety and help you feel better.

And to ensure your health don't miss these 101 Health Habits You Didn't Know Were Deadly.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael