What is IBS?
IBS is very common, with 1:4 people in the UK likely to have it. It affects twice as many women as men.
It’s really important that other possibilities are ruled out. This is because other digestive disorders have similar symptoms to IBS, particularly in the early stages. You can do this by listing your symptoms and when they started. Then talk with your doctor. If needed, your doctor may suggest some further investigations such as a blood test to rule out things like an underactive thyroid or inflammatory bowel disease. Your doctor may also want to review your medication and supplements as some constipation can be triggered by medication such as iron tablets, codeine-based painkillers or aluminium-based antacids.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a syndrome. This means we haven’t yet found the one definitive cause of IBS. Instead researchers have grouped a set of symptoms together under the heading of Irritable Bowel Syndrome because the symptoms appear to have similar characteristics. They’ve created 4 categories
- diarrhoea-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-D)
- constipation-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-C)
- mixed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-M). This is when you have a combination of constipation and diarrhoea
- unspecified Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-U). This is when you don’t fall into any of the first 3 categories.
What Are the Symptoms of IBS-D?
The key symptoms for diarrhoea-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome are:
- you go to the toilet frequently and / or, you pass a loose stool at least 25% of the time;
- the shape of your stool, which tends towards being watery, liquid or without any shape (referred to as unformed).
What Are the Symptoms of IBS-C?
The key symptoms for constipation-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome are:
- how often you go to the toilet and pass a stool completely or without needing to strain (it’s generally less than 3 times in a week);
- the shape of your stool, which tends towards being hard and dry or small like pebbles or rabbit droppings.
There Are Some Other Symptoms
The other noticeable symptom is that you often get the tell-tale abdominal pain which reduces after you have been to the toilet and passed a stool. You might also notice abdominal bloating, gas or wind (that moves up or down), headache, nausea, heartburn or tiredness.
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