What should I do next if I suspect that I have IBS symptoms?
I am a woman, 24 years old this year. I suspect that I have IBS as I have experienced abdomen cramps, bloating and bouts of diarrhoea once every few weeks since about 10 years ago. However, recently I have been experiencing bloating in the abdomen for nearly 4 weeks - I have never felt bloated for such a long period ever. The bloating gets worse after eating, especially after dinner. In the morning it is just slightly bloated. I also experience bouts of very slight to moderate pains in different areas of my stomach and abdomen. Each day the pain is slightly different - mostly a dull cramp, but sometimes there are specific areas that feel pain for a short while. Should these symptoms be a cause of concern? Should I go to a specialist to check?
Your symptoms are very common and many people suffer from them daily. However, there are a couple of things that I would like to bring up in your case that are worth considering as I suspect your complaints might not be from a single problem.
Irritable bowel syndrome encompasses a myriad of symptoms but a common feature would be the relation of the abdominal pain or discomfort to defecation. Most people find relief with passing motion or gas, albeit temporary. Your complaints of prolonged, persistent abdominal bloating warrants further consideration of other medical and non-medical causes.
Other common medical causes that might account for your symptoms include gastritis and gallstone disease. Rarer causes would include food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease (to be differentiated from irritable bowel syndrome) or even gynaecological causes. This list is not exhaustive.
Non-medical causes are often related to any recent change in dietary habits, new medications or supplements. Unfortunately, self treatment with various off-the-counter medications might lead to worsening of the symptoms. This would include the use of inappropriate types of probiotics or an excessive intake of dietary fibre.
Any symptoms that are persistent for more than 2 weeks are a cause for concern and should be investigated further to confirm the diagnosis and guide treatment accurately. Thank you.