IBS can be debilitating and demoralising to experience, with symptoms ranging from constipation to flatulence. These symptoms can vary in each individual and it is not always clear long they will last. Some people find that their symptoms are persistent while others only experience occasional flare ups that do not last long. In this page, our digestive expert Ali Cullen explores the symptoms of IBS, their causes, and how they can be treated using self-help remedies and natural solutions.
An estimated 1 in 10 people suffer from IBS. Symptoms can be troublesome, persistent and embarrassing.
IBS symptoms vary from person to person in severity, how long they last, well as the type of symptoms experienced. Keeping track of these can be important as the pattern of occurrence can help when forming a diagnosis.
Pain in the stomach (or more accurately, the abdomen) is one of the most common symptoms of IBS. It is also one of the first symptoms experienced.
Stomach pain in IBS is usually described as cramps or spasms, but occasionally as sharp or stabbing pain. Sufferers often recognise that certain foods trigger symptoms, although the effects are not always clear or immediate.
However, if stomach pains are part of IBS, they usually appear shortly after a meal and ease after passing wind or stools.
Diarrhoea is the passing of loose or watery stools, often associated with the need for more frequent bowel movements.
Diarrhoea resulting from a stomach bug tends to only last a few days. Diarrhoea due to IBS hangs around for much longer. Certain foods can trigger the symptom and if these are eaten, diarrhoea comes about shortly after a meal.
For some people, diarrhoea or loose motions can be present most or all of the time. IBS diarrhoea can be interspersed with bouts of constipation.
Constipation is the opposite of diarrhoea where bowel movements become less frequent. There is no clear definition of constipation, but most naturopaths would say that you need to open your bowels at least once per day.
IBS can cause constipation. As it also causes diarrhoea, it is not clearly understood why we have two opposite symptoms with one health problem.
Stools are often hard, abnormally small (pellet like) or large and difficult to pass. It can feel as if the bowels have not been properly emptied, even immediately after going to the toilet.
A feeling of being bloated in IBS is usually caused by a build-up of gas in the abdomen. This most commonly affects the lower part of the bowel (lower small intestines and / or large bowel) but may also be present further up the digestive tract.
Normal digestion of food leads to small amounts of gas in the bowel. However, when this process is disturbed or uncoordinated, food in the gut starts to ‘ferment’ giving rise to an increase in the amount of gas produced.
Hello. My name is Alison Cullen and I am an experienced nutritional therapist with a clinic in Ayrshire, Scotland. I currently combine running my clinic with the role of Education Manager for A Vogel. I lecture, train and write extensively on health issues, which I find endlessly fascinating.
Liked what you read? Sign up to receive my monthly emails full of simple tips and advice to help you relieve all of your IBS symptoms.
Join today for lots of simple energy-boosting tips and advice from our nutritionist Emma and her team of experts sent to you over 6 days to help revitalise your energy levels, as well as a sample of our Balance Mineral Drink which is packed with energy-boosting minerals.