What are the symptoms of IBS?

By | Last Updated: 21st June 2019 | This post may contain Affiliate Links

Irritable bowel syndrome (also simply known as “IBS”) is a collection of symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cramping and constipation. Generally most people with IBS can decrease symptoms with changes to their diet, medicine, and stress relief.

IBS can range in severity, some people have “mild symptoms” while others can have “severe” symptoms. Typically Irritable bowel syndrome affects women more than men – around 35% to 40% of individuals who report IBS are male. While 60% to 65% are female. IBS usually starts between the ages of 20 and 30 years old.

According to research by NICE, prevalence in the UK general population is estimated to be between 10% and 20%. (Source)

Did you know? In the United States alone, between 2.5 and 3.5 million people visit the doctor every year for IBS. (Source)


Common IBS Symptoms

The main symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome can include the following:

Diarrhoea – your poo may be liquid or watery and you sometimes may need to go to the toilet suddenly.

Constipation – IBS suffers may ‘strain’ while attempting to poo. You may also feel like you can’t completely empty your bowels

Bloating – the area of the tummy may feel ‘swollen’ or ‘full’

Stomach Cramps – IBS suffers can get stomach cramps after eating

Lower Abdominal Pain – it’s not uncommon for IBS to cause ‘pain’, ‘discomfort’ or ‘spasms’ in the lower part of your abdomen – particularly either on the lower left and right.

Trapped Gas – some people can suffer from a build-up of trapped wind or gas. This tends to lead to an increase in farting (flatulence).


Some people may have symptoms for weeks, if not months at a time. Others may have ‘flare ups’ which can happen from time to time, but usually clear up on their own.

See your Doctor if you think you could have IBS

Please remember this page is a “general guide only”, it’s not official medical advice. If you think you may have IBS, it’s always recommended to get professional guidance and diagnosis from your GP.

Ask for an urgent appointment if you have:

• Lost of weight for no reason
• Bleeding from your bottom or bloody diarrhoea
• A hard lump or swelling in your tummy
• Shortness of breath, palpitations and pale skin

How is IBS Diagnosed?

It’s recommended to always see your doctor if you think you may have IBS. At a standard appointment your doctor will ask you questions about your general health, they should also ask about your symptoms, and may examine you.

They may ‘press’ on your abdomen to feel for ‘lumps’ or ‘bumps’ and in some cases, they may perform a simple rectal exam. Unfortunately there are currently no tests that 100% confirm IBS.

Depending on your health and symptoms, your doctor may also request further medical tests to ‘rule out’ other diseases if you have “red flag” symptoms such as:

• Weight Loss
• Anaemia (iron deficiency)
• Rectal bleeding
• Diarrhoea that awakens you
• Family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease

If your doctor decides that further investigations are warranted, they will usually refer you to your local hospital. Medical tests which you may have can include a colonoscopy. This is a common test where a specialist looks inside the large intestine/bowel by inserting a small camera to spot inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, polyps and ulcers.

Typically it’s recommended that people over age 50 with IBS symptoms should also have a colonoscopy as standard to screen for colon cancer, even if they don’t have any “red flag” symptoms.

In some cases, a doctor may also order a blood test to check for celiac disease if you have certain types of IBS. These types are IBS-D (diarrheoa related) or IBS-M (mixed type with diarrheoa and constipation).

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