How Do I Know if I Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Woman experiencing IBS while lying on the sofa at home

How Do I Know If I Have IBS?

Struggling with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a difficult and frustrating challenge that many have had to try to overcome in their lives. If you are among those who are struggling with this issue, you know the embarrassment and frustration that can come with trying to deal with this. You are not alone in your struggle. It is estimated that between 10-15% of the American population deals with IBS. Therefore, it is best to try to understand what causes these issues and then work on the best strategy for taking care of the situation.

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The Cleveland Clinic provides us with a helpful overview of what Irritable Bowel Syndrome is:

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a group of symptoms that affect your digestive system. It’s a common but uncomfortable gastrointestinal disorder. People with IBS get excessive gas, abdominal pain and cramps.

As you can tell from this, it is a very unpleasant experience to have to deal with. This is true even though a significant portion of the public experiences this very common disorder.

IBS falls under a category of disorders that are disorders of the gut and brain. In other words, these are disorders in which your gut and brain are not responding to one another properly. There are some signals lost in the mix somewhere, and your brain and gut are not in sync. When this occurs, you might experience IBS or a host of other gastrointestinal disorders.

Symptoms and Signs

You will likely be aware if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome because of the discomfort that it is likely to cause you. If you are asking “How do I know if I have IBS?”, then there is a good chance that you already do. That said, you certainly want to be on the lookout for the symptoms and signs of IBS that could impact your life.

Some of the primary symptoms that you are likely to face include:

– Unusual changes in bowel movements

– Bloating or swelling of the stomach

– Abdominal pain

– Heartburn

– Low energy

You might experience any combination of these symptoms. You might also experience some additional symptoms that are unique to your experience with IBS. These are among the most common symptoms reported by sufferers of IBS. If you have noticed some of these symptoms cropped up in your own life, then you might want to get to a doctor as soon as possible to get checked out.

What Triggers IBS?

While working on answering the question “How do I know if I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”, you should stop and think about any potential triggers that you have experienced recently. This is to say that you ought to be on the lookout for the various triggers that can bring about an IBS attack. Often, the root cause of an IBS attack comes from the foods that we eat. According to Nebraska Med, some of the types of foods that trigger IBS symptoms in many patients include the following:

Dairy Products

Many people find that they suffer when they consume dairy products. This can include milk, ice cream, and other variations of dairy products. This may be worsened for those who are also lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive. Keep that in mind when considering why you might be experiencing an IBS flare-up.


There are many reasons to consider laying off of your caffeine intake, not the least of which is because it might cause IBS issues for you. Beverages such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and coffee all contain caffeine. However, some food has caffeine in them as well. Be mindful of that as you think about how you can better manage your IBS symptoms.

Spicy Foods

It is, unfortunately, the case that spicy foods might also trigger IBS symptoms in many patients. Plenty of us like spicy foods, and they are a staple of the food offerings of certain cultures. That said, you should steer clear of them if you have IBS or are concerned that you might develop IBS issues. Spicy foods are a known culprit for making IBS issues even worse than they already were with many sufferers.

These are just a few of the triggers that are known to make IBS issues flare up in many people. You might find that there are some additional triggers in your own life. Once you know what triggers these symptoms in your own life, work on figuring out a plan for how you will deal with that.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There isn’t any special test that you can undergo to definitely determine that you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Instead, your healthcare provider will need to go over your entire medical history to determine what may be the root cause of your IBS issues. He or she can look over your records and make a determination based on the medical evidence that is presented to them. Your doctor will want to rule out other potential causes of your issues. He or she can recommend a treatment plan that properly addresses your issue.

As far as treatments are concerned, the primary goal of your treatment plan is to help manage your symptoms as best as possible. There simply isn’t a silver bullet solution out there that can eliminate all of the issues that you might face when it comes to IBS. However, you can work on controlling your symptoms so that you aren’t forced to suffer as long or as severely as you were before.

The Mayo Clinic states that mild IBS symptoms can be managed by taking the following steps:

– Change your diet to avoid eating trigger foods

– Drink plenty of fluids

– Get more fiber into your diet

– Exercise regularly

– Make sure you get plenty of sleep

You should try to take all of these steps for the betterment of your health in general. Not only will you notice that this improves your IBS symptoms, but it can provide you with other health benefits as well.

What to Do if You Think You Have IBS

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, the first thing that you should start to do is make some lifestyle changes to try to curb your symptoms. You should also book an appointment with your doctor as soon as you possibly can. They can review your medical history and help you determine if you have IBS and how severe your symptoms are. They can then work on a treatment plan that is uniquely suited to your situation.

Ultimately, you want to make sure you are taking care of your symptoms as soon as possible so they don’t hinder your life. Take some time to get this all under control and get yourself moving forward toward a healthier and better life.