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Getting IBS Under Control so You Get Your Life Back

Irritable bowel syndrome, often called IBS, is a common condition of the colon, or large intestine. Experts now believe there is no one disease that causes IBS. Instead, many underlying medical conditions can cause symptoms in the large intestine. Symptoms can be mild or severe and often include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation. If you are one of the people for whom IBS produces more severe symptoms, you know just how much it can affect your normal life.

At AdventHealth Digestive Institute, our gastroenterologists (GI doctors) are experienced in helping patients with IBS find out what is causing their symptoms. Once the cause is known, symptoms can be treated or better managed. Some patients diagnosed with IBS by their primary care physician have ulcerative colitis, a serious condition that is considered inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Determining the correct cause of IBS symptoms results in more effective treatments. It also helps prevent complications that could arise from being misdiagnosed and therefore under-treated.

IBS Symptoms

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome commonly include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping that can be very severe
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bouts of diarrhea alternating with bouts of constipation
  • Changes to bowel movement frequency
  • Changes to stool appearance
  • Bowel movements that feel very urgent or incomplete, or are hard to pass
  • Mucus (clear or white) in the stool

Not everyone with IBS experiences the same symptoms, and specific symptoms often point to certain causes of IBS.

Patients with IBS typically fall into three groups of symptoms:

  • IBS with diarrhea
  • IBS with constipation
  • IBS with diarrhea mixed with constipation

How Do You Diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Arriving at a diagnosis of IBS involves ruling out other, more serious digestive conditions. If certain other factors or symptoms appear alongside those of IBS, then it is likely another condition.

Factors that almost always rule out IBS include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in the stool
  • Family history of certain gastrointestinal conditions
  • Symptoms that first occur after age 50

Your doctor will also use blood testing to look for other digestive conditions with similar symptoms to those of IBS. However, if it is determined that you have IBS and not another condition, your doctor will seek out the underlying cause of your symptoms.

IBS symptoms are often caused by disturbances or changes in:

  • The balance of good and bad bacteria in the large intestine (gut microbiome)
  • How well the large intestine absorbs water and nutrients
  • The role the gut plays in the body’s immune system
  • Mental health – stress, depression, anxiety, etc. – can affect the digestive system

IBS Treatment

There are effective treatments for IBS that do not require surgery. Your gastroenterologist will make a treatment plan personalized for your own experience with IBS. The treatment or combination of treatments you receive will address your symptoms and underlying cause of IBS.

Treatments for IBS include:

  • Diet changes
  • Lifestyle changes such as exercising more often
  • Mental health counseling
  • Medicines


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