It can be difficult to know the difference between a regular stomach ache and something you should talk about with your doctor. Repeated stomach issues could be a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Read this brief Q&A to learn more.
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Q: I’m having digestive issues. Could it be irritable bowel syndrome?
A: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a problem that affects the large intestine, also known as the bowel, and can cause cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS can be painful, but it does not cause damage. Its cause is unknown.
Q: How do I know I have IBS?
A: Your doctor will give you a physical exam and ask for your complete medical history. He or she may want a blood test, stool samples or an X-ray of the bowel, and might also want to perform two procedures that are more complicated: a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which examines the large intestines for rectal bleeding or polyps, and a colonoscopy, which looks for abnormalities in the colon.
Q: What can I do?
A: Changes in diet can reduce symptoms of IBS. Avoid caffeine and limit milk products. Eat more fiber, drink three to four glasses of water daily, avoid smoking, and get more exercise. Emotional distress also has been known to cause symptoms of IBS.
Q: Is there a cure?
A: There is no cure for IBS, but avoiding food triggers and managing stress can greatly reduce symptoms.