If you frequently find yourself sitting in a meeting, a classroom, a restaurant, or movie and suddenly feel intense pressure in your bowels that makes you scan for the nearest exit, you may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And without an emergency escape plan wherever you go, you may be in for some extremely embarrassing social situations.
Because IBS can be unpredictable, you always need to be prepared and have a clear path to the restroom. Dr. Ayub Hussein at Northside Gastroenterology Associates in Cypress and Houston, Texas, understands the stress this causes. Fortunately, he specializes in gut issues like IBS that cause the distressing scene we just described.
The good news is that he can treat IBS so you can take back control over your life. Here’s how to recognize the symptoms of IBS.
IBS isn’t a disease, it’s a syndrome. Syndromes are groups of symptoms that often point to a certain condition or disease. In the case of IBS, there’s no related disease; it’s just a set of symptoms. One of the criteria for diagnosing IBS is that your symptoms must be present for at least three months and appear at least three times a week. So, what are the symptoms?
Common IBS symptoms
IBS symptoms vary in type and severity among all sufferers, and the predominant symptom classifies the type of IBS:
- IBS with constipation
- IBS with diarrhea
- Mixed IBS (with both diarrhea and constipation)
Clearly, diarrhea and constipation are two of the primary symptoms of IBS, but they aren’t the only ones. You may also experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Mucus in the stool
Some women with IBS experience more severe symptoms during their period, and menopausal women may have less severe or fewer symptoms than women who still menstruate.
Although IBS is not considered a serious health threat, it can be extremely inconvenient and even painful. Its unpredictable nature forces you to prioritize restroom access when planning activities, which can limit your options and disrupt your life. But aside from the inconvenience and discomfort, IBS symptoms typically aren’t cause for alarm.
If you do notice more severe symptoms, it may be an indication that there’s another problem. Here are some symptoms you may mistakenly attribute to IBS:
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Pain that doesn’t abate after a bowel movement
If you experience any of these symptoms, come see Dr. Hussein right away so he can run the appropriate tests and get to the root cause of your symptoms.
Controlling your IBS
There are several theories about what causes IBS, but no proven culprit. It may be caused by an over- or underactive gastrointestinal tract, muscle contractions in your intestine, infection, high stress, or abnormal gut microbes.
These conditions can lead to changes in your bowels, including hard or soft stools, gas and bloating, mucus, and pain. You can alleviate some of these problems by supporting your gastrointestinal tract with diet and lifestyle choices.
Dr. Hussein can help you make changes according to your unique set of symptoms, so knowing what triggers your bouts of IBS can help. You may need to:
- Eliminate certain foods
- Reduce stress
- Chew more slowly
- Take probiotic supplements
- Eat smaller meals
If these changes don’t bring you enough relief, Dr. Hussein may prescribe medication to control your worst symptoms.
Do your symptoms mean you have IBS? Schedule an appointment online or call us today to find out for sure and get relief soon.