Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Thompson et al (1992) say that IBS is ‘a functional bowel disorder in which abdominal pain is associated with defecation or change in bowel habit, and with the features of disordered defecation and with distension'.
The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome are abdominal (tummy) pain along with either constipation or diarrhoea. Some people may experience both constipation and diarrhoea at different times, or the pain alone.
There are often other symptoms too, such as bloating, abdominal cramps, spasms, belching or flatulence, sudden and urgent needs for the toilet, mucous in the stools (poo), dizziness, tiredness, headaches, etc.
Different people find different circumstances trigger off an episode of IBS - stress, anxiety, exercise, certain foods, caffeine or nicotine are common triggers - and symptoms may be quite mild or very severe.
IBS symptoms in women
- Many women find their IBS symptoms get worse when they are menstruating (having a period), possibly because of hormone changes, or because women may be simply more aware of changes in their abdominal region.
- Pregnancy often causes a reduction in IBS symptoms, as does the menopause.
- Women with IBS may be more at risk of developing endometriosis or of having a hysterectomy.
- Neither birth control pills nor HRT appears to have any effect on IBS symptoms.
IBS symptoms in men
- There seems to be less research on Irritable Bowel Syndrome in men, though there is some.
- Symptoms in men and women are similar though men tend to be less likely to report bloating, distension and feelings of incomplete evacuation (that they have not 'finished' when they go to the loo).
- One study showed that in younger men IBS seemed to be connected with higher levels of testosterone than average.
- Men are statistically less likely to suffer anxiety or depression than women which may also have an impact.
Please note - if you think you have IBS you should go to your GP. Only a medical professional can diagnose IBS, and this will help you rule out other causes of your symptoms that may require different treatment.