Are you struggling with gut symptoms such as bloating, wind, constipation and diarrhoea? If you said yes, you may be wondering whether you may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Read on to find out how to get a diagnosis.
What is IBS?
IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. It is a chronic gut disorder affecting 10-20% of the population in the United Kingdom and is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions by gastroenterologists worldwide.
How do I know if I have IBS?
If you suspect you have IBS, it is important that you speak to a doctor.
Unfortunately, there is no specific test that shows whether an individual has IBS. Therefore, diagnosis is based on your symptoms and exclusion of other conditions with similar symptoms.
In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor will undertake an assessment by asking questions and taking a detailed history.
You may have IBS if you experience abdominal pain that is associated with:
- defecation e.g. symptoms relieved after a bowel movement.
- a change in stool frequency – going more or less often.
- a change in form (consistency) of stool e.g., looser stools or harder stools.
Other symptoms may also be present such as bloating, feeling tired, nausea, backache or bladder symptoms.
The doctor will also look out for possible alarm signs or symptoms. Alarm features to look out for include:
- unexplained weight loss
- family history of bowel disease
- onset of symptoms after the age of 50
- blood in the stool
- persistent daily diarrhoea
- getting up at night to open your bowels
- recurrent vomiting
If you are experiencing any of the above please see your doctor as soon as possible.
Subsequently, if no alarm features are present, a blood test is carried out to check for other conditions such as coeliac disease and inflammatory causes e.g., inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The blood test should include:
- a full blood count (FBC)
- erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or plasma viscosity
- c-reactive protein (CRP)
- antibody testing for coeliac disease.
In summary, a detailed assessment and the right investigations are crucial to ensure the correct diagnosis is made as this can impact treatment and your health in the long term. If you have been told you have IBS without appropriate testing, please speak to your doctor.
Lastly, it is important that you do not cut out gluten from your diet before your blood test. You must be eating gluten regularly for at least 6 weeks prior to the blood test for an accurate result for coeliac disease.
Before you go, Download my FREE IBS diagnosis guide below. You can complete this and take it to your 10 minute appointment to make the most of your time with your GP.
- Vasant et al, 2021. British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines on the management of irritable bowel syndrome. Available at: https://gut.bmj.com/content/gutjnl/70/7/1214.full.pdf
- NICE CG61, 2017. Irritable bowel syndrome in adults: diagnosis and management of irritable bowel syndrome in primary care. Available at https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg61/resources/irritable-bowel-syndrome-in-adults-diagnosis-and-management-pdf-975562917829
- Hungin AP, Whorwell PJ, Tack J, et al. The prevalence, patterns and impact of irritable bowel syndrome: an international survey of 40,000 subjects. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2003;17:643-50.
- El-Serag HB, Pilgrim P, Schoenfeld P. Systemic review: Natural history of irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2004;19:861-70.