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Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: All You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 31, 2022

Signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: All You Need to Know

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS experiences long-term abdominal pain and altered bowel habits without an observable and measurable cause.

The Possible Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Medical experts are still not sure why people develop IBS. Mostly, the focus lies on altered gastrointestinal motility and  hypersensitivity. Other experts also believe that altered gut flora, bacterial overgrowth, and inflammation, contribute to the development of the condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The signs and symptoms of IBS may vary, but the most common include the following:

  • Chronic abdominal pain. Some patients associate the pain with the passing of stool; others find relief when they pass stool.
  • Feeling bloated or gassy
  • Diarrhea, constipation, alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation, or normal bowel habits alternating with either diarrhea or constipation.
  • Mucus or phlegm-like substance in the stool

Please note that people with signs and symptoms of IBS have no “schedule” in experiencing them. Sometimes, the symptoms are mild; sometimes, they are severe. There are even times when they don’t experience them at all. Most reports say that the signs of IBS  are triggered by something they ate or drank.

When to See a Doctor

Although the signs and symptoms of IBS are not life-threatening, you must still seek medical attention if you experience the following:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling in your abdomen
  • Presence of a lump in your abdomen
  • Incontinence, which is the lack of control over urination and passing of stool
  • Bleeding in the rectum
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Persistent abdominal pain that even passing of stool cannot relieve

These signs may mean that you have another condition that should be medically addressed.


If symptoms are left unmanaged, a person who has IBS may experience the following complications:

  • Mood disorders. Depression and anxiety may occur because of digestive issues.
  • Poor quality of life. Research studies indicate that people who have signs of IBS are more likely to miss out on work than those who do not.


Once you have identified the signs of IBS, you may consult your doctor for further diagnosis. However, there is no definitive diagnostic test for IBS. Your attending physician will most likely take a look into your medical history. They will also take note of the signs and symptoms you have been experiencing.

If you experience abdominal pain, your doctor will likely ask the following questions:

  • Is the pain related to your bowel movement? Does your pain improve or worsen with the passage of stool?
  • Have you noticed a change in how frequently you pass a stool?
  • Are there changes in the way your stool looks?

Should your answer be a yes to at least two questions, the doctor will additionally ask you:

  • Have you experienced these symptoms at least once a week for the past 3 months?
  • Since when have you been experiencing these? Was the first symptom 6 months ago?

Of course, to rule out other conditions, the doctor may also request additional blood tests and stool tests for you.

Treatment and Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Treating and managing the signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome may be a long process, but you can do it.

The first step is to manage your diet. The doctor will advise you to eat regularly. You must eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and small snacks in between. You must not miss meals or eat very late in the evening. Additionally, take your time when eating and chew your food well.

The doctor will also ask you to be mindful of your food intake. What kinds of food trigger your IBS symptoms? Avoid them if you are able to.

In general, you must:

  • Eat foods that are rich in fiber, like fruits and vegetables
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Do regular exercise
  • Get enough rest and sleep
  • Reduce stress as much as possible as it can worsen the signs of IBS

Depending on your condition, the doctor may also prescribe medications that include anti-diarrheal drugs or laxatives. At times, the physician will also give you anti-spasmodic drugs. Anti-spasmodic drugs are medications that regulate muscle contraction. As a result, they reduce the level of abdominal pain.

Key Takeaways

The signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome may be hard to spot at first. However, as you continue to experience them, it will be easier for you to know when to consult a doctor. Once diagnosed, remember that Irritable Bowel Syndrome is manageable. You may just need to make a few lifestyle and dietary changes and follow the advice of your physician.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 31, 2022

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