Irritable Bowel Syndrome, commonly called IBS, causes a broad range of symptoms, including digestive issues, changes in bowel movements, fatigue, and anxiety.
Identifying triggers and making changes to your diet and lifestyle may be beneficial. Adding supplements that improve gut health such as our FUEL and Advanced Gut Relief can reduce discomfort and aid recovery.
The triggers for IBS are different for each person so it can be difficult to name specific foods or stressors that everyone with the disorder should avoid.
It has been found that avoiding digestive stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, sugary beverages, salt, and sugar alternatives can reduce symptoms in some people as can generally eating smaller servings and chewing your food properly.
Symptoms of IBS
Pain and cramping
Normally, your gut and brain work together to control digestion. This happens via hormones, nerves, and signals released by the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut.
The most common symptom of IBS is lower abdominal pain that is less severe after a bowel movement. Dietary modifications, stress-reducing therapies, and certain medications can help reduce pain.
Diarrhea-predominant IBS is one of the three main types of the disorder. It affects roughly one-third of people with IBS.
Frequent, loose stools are common in IBS, and are a symptom of the diarrhea-predominant type. Stools may also contain mucus.
IBS can cause constipation as well as diarrhea. Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week.
Constipation in IBS includes abdominal pain that eases with bowel movements and also often causes a sensation of an incomplete bowel movement. This leads to unnecessary straining.
Constipation is very common. However, abdominal pain that improves after a bowel movement and a sensation of incomplete bowel movements after passing stool are signs of IBS.
Mixed or alternating constipation and diarrhea affects about 23% of people with IBS.
Diarrhea and constipation in IBS involve chronic, recurring abdominal pain. Pain is the most important clue that changes in bowel movements are not related to diet or common, mild infections.
The symptoms of mixed IBS also vary more from one person to another. Therefore, this condition requires an individualized treatment approach rather than “one-size-fits-all” recommendations.
Slow-moving stool in the intestine often becomes dehydrated as the intestine absorbs water. In turn, this creates hard stool, which can exacerbate symptoms of constipation.
Prompt movement of stool through the intestine leaves little time for absorption of water and results in the loose stools characteristic of diarrhea.
Blood in stool may be a sign of a potentially more serious medical condition and deserves a visit to your medical practitioner. Blood in stool may appear red but often appears very dark or black with a tarry consistency.
IBS changes the time stool remains in your intestines. This changes the amount of water in stool, giving it a range from loose and watery to hard and dry.
Altered digestion in IBS leads to more gas production in the gut. This can cause bloating, which is uncomfortable.
Many with IBS identify bloating as one of the most persistent and nagging symptoms of the disorder.
Avoiding lactose and other foods that you feel trigger IBS may help reduce bloating for some people.
Around 80% of individuals with IBS say that particular foods trigger symptoms.
Because of this, many people with IBS actively avoid certain foods. Sometimes you may need to exclude multiple foods from the diet.
Why these foods trigger symptoms is unclear. These food intolerances are not allergies, and trigger foods don’t cause measurable differences in digestion.
Over half of people with IBS report fatigue. In one study, 160 adults diagnosed with IBS described low stamina that limited physical exertion in work, leisure, and social interactions.
IBS is also related to insomnia, which includes difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently, and feeling unrested in the morning.
Poor sleep seems to be linked to more severe gastrointestinal symptoms the following day.
IBS is linked to anxiety and depression. It’s not clear whether IBS symptoms are an expression of mental stress or whether the stress of living with IBS makes people more prone to psychological difficulties.
Whichever comes first, anxiety and digestive IBS symptoms reinforce one another in a vicious cycle.
One study compared levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people with and without IBS. During a 2-week teaching practice, those with IBS experienced greater changes in cortisol, suggesting greater stress levels.
Another study found that therapy to reduce anxiety also reduced stress and IBS symptoms.
Diet, stress, poor sleep, and changes in gut bacteria may all trigger symptoms.