Are you missing work or school days because of an aching belly? Do you haunt the “digestive aid” aisle of your local drugs store, buying laxatives one day, anti-diarrheas the next? Have you always suffered from “nervous stomach,” pain in the abdomen that flares up whenever you’re under stress? Do you think you have food allergies but have never been able to pin down exactly what’s making you sick?
You may be one of the 35 million Americans suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to the Mayo Clinic, IBS is a chronic disease causing stomach pains, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or both. Unfortunately, those symptoms, together or in part, can also be caused by other maladies, everything from a mild stomach bug to a serious cancer. Here are five signs that what you have really is IBS.
If you have the general stomach woes common with IBS, your first stop should be the doctor. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be your last stop as the medical community has been slow to recognize how pervasive and debilitating IBS is. Though there is some research going on into the causes and treatments of IBS, may general practitioners still do not know how to handle IBS patients and too often reject their ailments out of hand. However, even if your doctor is not willing to take your IBS concerns seriously, he or she will be able to rule out other conditions that share some of the same symptoms as IBS. These include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and colon cancer.
Most people with IBS have had it for most of their lives. Many children with IBS find themselves being written off as picky eaters or overly sensitive and prone to psychosomatic belly aches. You also might not have noticed IBS in your youth, but as you entered young adulthood, the stress of college or a first job might have aggravated the condition, leading to an onset of symptoms.
Unlike stomach flu or more serious digestive ailments, IBS symptoms tend to go away when you excrete.
An elimination diet is a process by which you remove as many possible allergens as you can from your diet, then slowly add them back, a food at a time, to identify a food sensitivity. While doing an elimination diet may be the way to discover some foods that are exacerbating your IBS symptoms, the disease is thought not to be related to any specific food sensitivity, and, in fact, IBS sufferers report that different foods will set off their symptoms at different times.
IBS is a challenging chronic condition that is just now starting to get the attention it deserves from the established medical community. And even though there is no cure for IBS yet, determining that you have the condition can provide some peace of mind, knowing that you don’t have a more deadly disease and that your symptoms and suffering are not imagined. Furthermore, there is a growing community of IBS sufferers, natural health practitioners, and forward-thinking doctors for you to tap into to start to learn how to manage your IBS symptoms and improve your quality of life.
You are encouraged to make an appointment with your Primary Care Provider or OBGYN if you are bothered by any of the common symptoms above. You know your own body. Together with their medical knowledge, you can get the correct diagnosis and advice for the most effective management of your unique circumstances. The right doctor will be a partner in decision making and will make you feel heard, respected, and in control of your health.