Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Posted on August 15, 2018

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Although IBS does not cause damage or inflammation, it causes the large intestine (colon) to be oversensitized and reactive.

The most common symptoms of IBS are related to the digestive tract, but some people experience other symptoms as well.

Many people with IBS are able to effectively manage their symptoms with treatments for IBS.

Gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS

Everyone with IBS experiences GI symptoms. Symptoms can vary by the type of IBS and the individual. IBS symptoms can also change day by day and over time.

GI symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can include:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping, and discomfort
  • Acid reflux
  • Belching
  • Bloating
  • Change in bowel habits – going more frequently, less frequently, or changes in the stool itself
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Sensation that you are not able to completely empty the bowels
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain during defecation
  • Stool urgency – a feeling that you need to defecate right away

General symptoms of IBS

Depression and anxiety are common in those with IBS, as with all chronic illnesses.

Chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration.

The pain caused by IBS can sometimes be felt in the lower back or legs.

Flares in IBS

Many people with IBS notice that their IBS symptoms worsen when they eat certain foods, experience a stressful situation, or (for women) begin their menstrual period. Identifying and avoiding flare triggers is one way some people with IBS manage their condition. Common foods that trigger IBS flares include:

  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Sugar
  • Beans


External resources

myIBSteam resources


At what age do most people first experience IBS symptoms?

Most people are diagnosed with IBS before age 50.

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