Symptoms of IBS
Let’s start by acknowledging that it’s completely normal for people to have the occasional tummy trouble or problem with going to the loo, or even the odd difference in how your poo looks. So, when we talk about symptoms, the duration and the severity of your symptoms is an important differing factor.
While common symptoms of IBS include:
- Gas or wind
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Feeling sluggish and tired
- Constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Changes in bowel habit
One of the most commonly reported symptoms are gas related ones which can cause bloating, discomfort, painful spasms and cramps.
IBS and Bloating
Bloating is one of the most common symptoms of IBS. Bloating might sound trivial, but IBS bloating can be very uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
Some people report that their tummy is reasonably flat in the mornings but becomes more bloated throughout the day and is at its worst in the evening. The bloating can make your tummy feel stretched and tight and can be accompanied by feeling sick. The week before a menstrual period might be especially bad.
See your GP if you start to feel bloated on a regular basis, if you notice that it is worse with certain types of food e.g. including gluten or wheat, or that you persistently feel full.
IBS with Constipation
Constipation is one of the main symptoms associated with IBS and those that suffer on a regular or long term basis are known to have ‘IBS-C’ or ‘Constipation-predominant IBS’. It is important to note that many people with IBS can suffer from both constipation and diarrhoea.
Following a diagnosis from your healthcare professional, it is worth discussing your treatment options with them.
Constipation means different things to different people – even doctors. It is usually defined as hard pellet-like stools, but you may consider yourself to have constipation if you have:
- Infrequent stools
- Difficulty or straining to pass stools
- A feeling of being unable to completely your bowels, or the sensation of wanting to go but not being able to.
As well as these bowel related symptoms, constipation can also be associated with abdominal pain, bloating and/or gas, feeling sluggish.
IBS with Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea is one of the symptoms often associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the term is used to describe sudden urges to have bowel movements, along with:
- Loose stools
- Frequent stools
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- The feeling of being unable to completely empty the bowels.
Those who struggle with diarrhoea as a symptom of IBS on a long term, or regular basis, are described as having ‘IBS with diarrhoea’ or IBS-D. This is usually quantified by the general rule that their stools are loose or watery at least 25% of the time (and hard or lumpy stools less than 25% of the time)
It is important to note that people with IBS can suffer from both constipation and diarrhoea.
Following a diagnosis from your healthcare professional, it is worth discussing your treatment options.
IBS Gas & wind (flatulence)
People with IBS often describe themselves as very gassy and windy. Certain foods are known to cause more gas symptoms so check out our list of gassy foods if you’re out and about with your friends, you might want to limit your chances of wind.
IBS Abdominal pain / cramping– why is it painful?
When you eat, your gut squeezes the food to propel it along towards your anus. This is called peristalsis. Usually it’s painless, but if your gut becomes more sensitive or if there is an abnormal squeeze of the gut, it can be quite painful. Sometimes these symptoms can be relieved by having a poo.
IBS and Depression or anxiety
IBS can really affect your mood and leave you feeling isolated or reluctant to go out or eat for fear of triggering symptoms. It can turn something as pleasurable as eating or socialising into a constant worry. Being anxious about what you can eat and being stressed about the symptoms can sometimes feel like you have to choose between your head or your gut.
Happily we have plenty of tips on how to help beat this cycle and feel the freedom from living your life to the full again.
This is why IBS is called a ‘syndrome’
Because IBS is a ‘syndrome’ meaning a collection of symptoms, everyone tends to have a different set of symptoms. Both food triggers and stress can contribute to the symptoms. Identification of your ‘syndrome’ is a first step. If you think you have IBS always consult your doctor to get a full medical diagnosis.
You can use our Product finder tool to help find the right product for your symptoms
IMPORTANT NOTICE WHEN TO SEE YOUR GP URGENTLY
You should always see your GP to get a medical diagnosis and help identify the cause of your symptoms, but if you have noticed any bleeding from your bottom, lost weight for no reason, hard lump or swelling in your tummy, shortness of breath or noticeable heartbeats, you need to book an appointment with your doctor immediately to rule out any more serious conditions first.
Try taking Senocalm to help alleviate medically confirmed IBS gas related symptoms. Always read the instructions.
- Apiroz F & Malagelada 2005. Abdominal Bloating. Gastroenterology 2005; 129:1060-1078
- Chey WD, Kurlander J, Eswaran S. Irritable bowel syndrome: a clinical review. JAMA. 2015;313(9):949-958. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.0954
- NICE - Clinical Knowledge Summary. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Available from: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/irritable-bowel-syndrome/