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9 symptoms often mistaken for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterised by recurrent abdominal pain linked to bowel movements, and a change in the frequency or presentation of bowel movements. Approximately 9% of Australians suffer from IBS. It is a chronic condition that can be hard to diagnose. It is also a term that can be misused. Not every irritated intestinal tract is suffering from IBS. Here are some symptoms that are not likely to be IBS.*

  1. Upper abdominal pain is rarely linked to IBS. It is more likely to be reflux or gastrointestinal disease.
  2. Abdominal pain that occurs less than once a week is more likely to be linked to your recent diet/activity than a sign of IBS.
  3. Acute diarrhoea is normally the result of eating spoiled food or a viral infection. Diarrhoea predominant IBS requires that symptoms be present for at least 3 months.
  4. Prolonged diarrhoea can indicate a parasitic infection. This requires a diagnosis from the doctor and a course of antibiotics.
  5. Lactose intolerance commonly causes cramping and diarrhoea but it is linked only to eating/drinking foods containing lactose. Most IBS sufferers will benefit from reducing lactose in their diet, but that will not be the only dietary modification they need to make.
  6. Likewise, food allergies do not constitute a diagnosis of IBS. Though they may certainly cause pain and a change in bowel movements, removing the trigger easily prevents the symptoms.
  7. Women who experience gastrointestinal upset regularly could consider whether it is linked to their menstrual cycle. Digestive upset is a well-known symptom of premenstrual syndrome.
  8. Women with endometriosis can also experience bowel problems and it can be difficult to assess where abdominal pain originates. Interestingly, endometriosis sufferers are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with IBS than the general population.
  9. IBS does not normally cause weight loss or blood in bowel movements. These are symptoms which require further investigation by your doctor.

*This article is for information purposes only and should not be relied upon diagnostically. Please see your doctor if you are concerned about your health.