Unsure if you’ve got IBS? Take a look at this overview of the symptoms, testing and treatment for IBS.
What are the signs of IBS?
The issue with diagnosing IBS is that it can be different for everyone.
Most people with IBS experience stomach cramps, bloating, reacting to certain foods, and experiencing either recurrent constipation, diarrhoea, or a mixture of both.
NHS testing for IBS
A GP will look at something called the Rome IV criteria to diagnose IBS. This is looking for changes in your stools over the last few months, and the frequency of your symptoms.
Your GP may offer some blood tests to look for signs of inflammation, and also your iron levels and thyroid function.
They may also refer you to a gastroenterologist to offer an endoscopy or colonoscopy to look inside the intestines.
Stool samples may be collected to rule out a parasitic infection.
Ruling out other conditions
There is no IBS testing that can diagnose your condition, but it is very important your doctor rules out any other possible conditions.
The doctor may ask you about blood or mucus in your stools, family history of illness, unintentional weight loss, changes in your bowel habits.
GPs will normally touch your tummy to feel for any unusual shapes in the abdomen.
It can take 13 years to get a coeliac diagnosis, so ensure you’ve asked the doctor to screen you for this condition. If you’re considering giving up gluten then consider a blood test first because you need eat gluten for two weeks prior to a coeliac disease test.
Preparing to visit your doctor about IBS
Take some notes with you describing your symptoms. Ensure you’ve thought of all your questions in advance, e.g. how long have you been experiencing digestive symptoms?
What triggers symptoms?
How frequently do symptoms happen?
You may find it helpful to look at the Bristol Stool Chart so you are familiar with how health professionals talk about stools. It can be easier to talk about ‘Types’ rather than describing your poo if you get easily embarrassed.
Don’t feel awkward about talking about your toilet habits, doctors have heard it all before.
Treatment approaches for IBS
There is a lot you can do to support IBS symptoms with lifestyle and diet, the key is finding what works for you. IBS presents differently in different people.
There are various diets that can be trialled to see what helps your symptoms.
As a Nutritional Therapist I can offer stool tests which go far beyond what is offered on the NHS. These will analyse all the microbes in your gut looking for dysbiosis (or unhelpful bacteria overgrowth).
A stool test can also take into account the health of your intestines, look at your levels of digestive enzymes, as well as test for pathogens.
I also look at your digestive symptoms as one part of your health, and will investigate your skin, hormones, lifestyle, stress levels and lots more. Contact me now to make an appointment – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm Anna Mapson, a registered Nutritional Therapist (DipCNM, BANT, CNHC) and creator of online courses:
- 7 Day Gut Reset online package for gut health improvements.
- 6 Weeks to Better Digestion & More Energy
Goodness Me Nutrition is all about helping you get the best digestion and diet that works for you. Join my mailing list to stay in touch.