As you know from my previous post, April is IBS Awareness Month, and over the next few weeks I’m going to be talking a lot about IBS to help folks get a better understanding of just what it is, what causes it, and what you can do about it—so get ready to love your colon!

First things first, just what is IBS? Irritable bowel syndrome (commonly called IBS) is an intestinal disorder defined largely by its symptoms, which include abdominal cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and constipation or diarrhea (or both). Based on those symptoms, there are three main types of IBS:

  • IBS-C is constipation-predominant IBS, which means it involves constipation-associated symptoms.
  • IBS-D is diarrhea-predominant IBS, which means it involves diarrhea-associated symptoms.
  • IBS-A, or alternating IBS, involves both constipation- and diarrhea-associated symptoms.

IBS is also one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders today, and as many as 20 percent of Americans have IBS symptoms. However, diagnosing it can be difficult since there are no “biological markers” to look for in a diagnostic test—which essentially means there are no indicators that help doctors distinguish whether you have IBS or something else. So then how do they know if you have it??

An IBS diagnosis is based on certain criteria called the Rome III Criteria, which state that a diagnosis can be made after six months from the first signs of IBS symptoms, with at least three months of recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort in association with two or more of the following conditions:

  • Improvement of symptoms with bowel movement
  • Onset of symptoms associated with a change in frequency of bowel movements
  • Onset of symptoms associated with a change in form of stool

So now that we know a little more about what IBS is, next time we’ll talk about what causes it, so be sure to keep reading!