Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- Changes in bowel movement patterns.
- Bloating and excess gas.
- Pain the lower belly.
- Mucus in stools.
You are more likely to have IBS if you have these symptoms and they have lasted at least 6 months, you have had belly pain at least 3 days each month for at least 3 months, and at least two of the following are true:1
- The pain is relieved by having a bowel movement.
- The pain is linked to a change in how often you have a bowel
- The pain is linked to a change in the appearance or consistency
of your stool.
Because there are no structural problems in the
intestines of people who have IBS, some people may think this means that the
symptoms "are all in their head." This isn't true. The pain, discomfort, and
bloating are real. They have many different causes that can be addressed to help
Bowel movement patterns
When you have IBS, your
pattern of bowel movements may be different over time. Two or more of the
following may happen:
- Bowel movements may occur either more often (diarrhea) or less
often (constipation) than usual. For example, you may have more than 3 bowel movements a
day or less than 3 a week.
- Bowel movements may differ in size or consistency. They may be hard
and small, pencil-thin, or loose and watery.
- The way stools pass changes. You may strain, feel an urgent
need to have a bowel movement, or feel that you haven't completely passed a
- You may have bloating or a feeling of gas in the
Other intestinal symptoms
Some people may have
pain in the lower belly with constipation that is sometimes followed by diarrhea.
Other people have pain and mild constipation but no diarrhea.
Some people have intestinal gas and passage of
mucus in stools.
You may sometimes
have other symptoms that don't affect the intestines, such as:
- Anxiety or depression.
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth.
- Sleep problems (insomnia) not caused by symptoms of
- Sexual problems, such as pain during sex or reduced sexual
- Heart palpitations. (You may feel like your heart skips a beat or is
- Urinary symptoms. (You may have a frequent or urgent need to urinate, trouble
starting the urine stream, or trouble emptying your bladder.)
Symptoms often occur after a meal, during stressful
times, or during menstruation.
There are many
other conditions with symptoms similar to IBS.