Digestive Health

Don’t let the bathroom rule your life: Common & uncommon symptoms of IBS

Young woman with stomach ache.

Do you find yourself making plans around your visits to the bathroom?

You’re not alone.

Your symptoms could point to irritable bowel syndrome, “a chronic condition where patients suffer from abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of any other causes,” explained Dr. Amol Sharma, a gastroenterologist at Augusta University’s Digestive Health Center.

IBS can occur at any age but may be seen as early as adolescence or early adulthood. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, IBS is the most common functional GI disorder with 10-15% of adults and adolescents having symptoms consistent with IBS.

While the underlying cause of IBS remains unclear, “some patients may develop symptoms after a viral illness affecting the gastrointestinal tract,” Sharma said. “Severe stress and anxiety may be drivers of symptoms in IBS.” If you develop any of the following symptoms, also known as alarm symptoms, you should see a doctor.

Common symptoms of IBS
  • Bloating and abdominal distension
  • Crampy, diffuse abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Food intolerance
Uncommon symptoms of IBS
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Experiencing symptoms in the middle of the night

“While IBS is not known to decrease life expectancy, it can dramatically affect the quality of life,” said Sharma. “IBS is associated with increased health care costs and is the second highest reason for missing work.”

Traveling with IBS

Individuals with IBS can experience difficulty traveling or living a normal life. Here are some helpful tips if you’re traveling soon:

IBS patients should seek consultation with a gastroenterologist to exclude other potential causes of symptoms. “Cases not responding to initial medical management should be referred for further evaluation by a neurogastroenterologist & GI motility specialist,” Sharma said.

The Augusta University Digestive Health Center partners the latest technology with a multidisciplinary team under one roof so patients and families can benefit from a single, convenient location dedicated to their ongoing digestive health. Schedule an online appointment or call 706-446-GUTS (4887) to speak to a member of our digestive health team.

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.

1 Comment

  • I try to watch what I eat, yet I still have variations of sudden and loose bowel movements with alternating constipation. I have learned that eating fried foods trigger the sudden and immediate bowel movements, but other things must also cause it, because I had another incident today without having eaten any fried foods. My doctor recommended I use an OTC product for stopping diarrhea, but I was afraid I would be always constipated instead.
    Also, I am morbidly obese, but in recent years I have found losing weight to be a losing battle. I also cannot find a program for losing that insurance will either pay or help pay except for Silver Sneakers at the Family Y. I use that, but my efforts with food have consistently failed. I have now been diagnosed with Diabetes but have kept my A1C and sugar levels within normal range for awhile. Does Augusta University have a program through Medicare and/or United Health Care that will help me? My chiropractor has a program for losing weight, but insurance does not pay anything to help me, and the expense is simply more than I can afford. I have been on this weight roller coaster all of my life, and I’d really love to get off of it.