Think you have IBS? What to do Next?

Christine Lothen-Kline, MPH, MCHES, RDN, LDN


What To Do First

If you believe that you are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it is essential that you work on getting the relief you need.  The first step is to be evaluated and, if appropriate, diagnosed by your healthcare provider, in most cases a gastroenterologist. As part of your assessment, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, frequency, severity, and triggers. There are several things your doctor will ask you about, such as: 

  1. Are you relieved from the pain after a bowel movement?
  2. When you feel this way, is there a change in the frequency of your stool?
  3. When you are experiencing this pain, is there a change in the form or the way that your stool looks or smells? 

Then, they will evaluate your answers with what is considered normal clinically. 

  • If you have more than three bowel movements per day or you have less than three movements per week, that is considered abnormal.
  • If you have hard or lumpy stool or you have a very loose or watery stool, that is considered abnormal.
  • If you are straining, or you have an urgent need to go, or you feel like you do not completely finish, this too is abnormal.
  • If there is any sign of mucus or blood, this is abnormal.
  • In addition, abdominal pain or uncomfortable and/or frequent bloated is considered abnormal.

Even through all of this screening, your doctor is likely to do a blood work up on you as part of the process of diagnosis you. 

Finally, your doctor will do a thorough examination. The exam will look at your physical conditions and to rule out any other possible findings that may suggest something besides irritable bowel syndrome is to blame for your symptoms.

When It’s IBS

If your healthcare provider determines that you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), they will likely recommend a few options; however, dietary changes are typically the primary method as multiple studies have indicated that up to 80% of IBS sufferers benefit from the Low FODMAP dietary protocol. Your physician will likely recommend you work with a specially trained Registered Dietitian to complete the Low FODMAP protocol to identify your food triggers and ensure your nutritional needs are met. ModifyHealth has FODMAP-trained Registered Dietitians and home-delivered meals to provide support and make this process easier. To learn more, visit www.modifyhealth.com

When It’s Not IBS

Your doctor may find that you have symptoms that are likely to indicate something other than Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). These symptoms can include blood the stool, weight loss, fevers, and diarrhea or pain that gets you up at night.  These considerations indicate that perhaps something else is wrong rather than IBS, and your healthcare provider will provide an appropriate treatment plan.

Where The Truth Lies

Unfortunately, there is no known cause for IBS. Many that experience it do not know of anyone in their family that has had it. That could be because it just wasn’t something that was discussed or that IBS is not hereditary. The good news is that many people with IBS are able to get significant improvements in their symptoms and take back control of their life and health! 

Next Steps?

Contact your healthcare provider to schedule a consultation. If you don’t know where to start, contact us at www.modifyhealth.com, and we can direct you to a local healthcare provider.