Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder causing excessive bloating and gas, diarrhea, and constipation. You can have IBS with constipation (IBS-C), IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), or a mixed type with both.
In any case, IBS is extremely troublesome to live with and can influence nearly every decision you make throughout the day. It affects planning when you leave the house and can lead you to re-evaluate and transform your diet.
Because the symptoms of IBS can happen to anyone at any time and for many reasons, you might have some trouble distinguishing between typical short-term bowel problems and IBS.
Here at Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division in Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, and Highland, New York, our board-certified providers evaluate your symptoms and can help you figure out what kind of treatment your bowel issues need.
Here’s how you can recognize the difference between basic tummy trouble and irritable bowel syndrome:
IBS is long-term
Milder problems affecting the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract tend to go away relatively quickly, even if you don’t take any steps to treat them. For example, food poisoning can cause diarrhea and abdominal pain for anywhere from several hours to a few days. The symptoms pass completely and don’t typically show up again once you start eating again (unless they’re coming from another cause).
With IBS, the symptoms you experience are ongoing or recurrent until you can find some way or ways to manage them. Triggers tend to be somewhat consistent and predictable, which helps you take steps to avoid them. With food poisoning or some other short-term gastrointestinal issue, you might not realize exactly what caused the symptoms.
You might notice changes in your bowel movements
Another distinct feature of IBS is the tendency of your bowel movement types and frequency to change. If your symptoms flare up at irregular times, or if you notice that you go through stages of spending a lot of time in the restroom versus hardly going at all, IBS might be the underlying issue. For some individuals with IBS, symptoms can go away entirely for a while before returning later.
Still not sure?
Long-term, recurrent symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation are often linked to IBS, but not always. To know for sure whether your bowel problems stem from some basic tummy issue or a chronic disease like IBS or Crohn’s disease, you need a thorough assessment with possible blood tests, stool sample tests, or a colonoscopy.
Schedule your appointment at one of our Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division offices by phone or online today to learn more about IBS and its distinctions from more common alternatives.