Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS, is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that makes life harder for countless people worldwide. It’s characterized by a variety of symptoms, primarily:
Abdominal pain or discomfort
Gas or bloating
Changes in bowel movements
If you suspect that you may have IBS, taking a quick self-assessment quiz can help you identify your symptoms and determine the next steps to take with your healthcare provider.
This "Do I Have IBS?" quiz is designed to help you better understand your symptoms and whether they align with those commonly associated with IBS, or something else entirely (like endometriosis).
While this quiz can be a helpful tool, it’s important to remember that it is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis. Regardless of your quiz results, consult a healthcare professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment options.
With that in mind, here are 10 questions you should ask yourself if you believe you might be experiencing IBS symptoms.
Q1: How often do you experience abdominal pain or discomfort?
Abdominal pain and/or discomfort is a hallmark symptom of IBS. So if you frequently experience these sensations, they could very well indicate IBS.
However, it’s important to consider other factors as well.
For instance, certain foods or stressors may trigger abdominal pain and discomfort that could be little more than a stomach ache of some kind.
Keeping a food diary and noting any patterns can help you determine if there is a relationship between your symptoms and your diet or stress levels.
That being said, if you have been feeling chronic abdominal aches, pains, or cramps for 6 months or longer, it’s likely a sign of something more serious than your typical stomach upset.
Q2: Do your symptoms improve after having a bowel movement?
One of the distinguishing features of IBS is the relief of symptoms after having a bowel movement. But the relief tends to be temporary, with the pain eventually returning.
If you notice that your abdominal pain or discomfort subsides after having a bowel movement, only to come back later, it might be an indication of IBS.
Of course, it’s important to note that less pain after a bowel movement is not, by itself, a definitive diagnosis of IBS either.
Q3: Do you often feel bloated or have excess gas?
Bloating and excess gas are common symptoms experienced by people with IBS. If you find yourself frequently feeling bloated or passing gas more than usual, pay attention and keep track of how long it lasts.
It’s essential to remember that other factors, such as certain foods or digestive disorders, can also cause these symptoms. Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Q4: Have you experienced any changes in your bladder habits?
Changes in bladder habits can also be a telltale sign of various health conditions, including IBS.
If you've noticed that you're urinating more frequently, or experiencing discomfort or even pain during urination, it's important to take note. While this could be nothing more than a urinary tract infection (UTI), it could be something more.
It's worth noting that bladder-related symptoms are not as commonly associated with IBS as they are with other conditions like endometriosis.
It's crucial to remember that many factors can contribute to changes in bladder habits, including lifestyle factors like fluid intake and certain medications.
Q5: Have you noticed any changes in your bowel habits?
Changes in bowel habits are typical in individuals with IBS. Some may experience constipation, while others could have diarrhea. Some people living with IBS may even alternate between being constipated and having diarrhea in an unpredictable manner.
In fact, there are three different names for these three different types of IBS, all of which are fairly common:
IBS-M (mixed) or IBS-A (alternating)
Different people may be more susceptible to getting one form of IBS over another, and everything from your genetics to your diet could play a role.
If you’ve noticed a significant departure from your usual bowel habits that’s persisted for at least three months, it may be an indication of IBS.
Q6: Have you experienced any unusual menstrual symptoms?
For individuals assigned female at birth, hormonal changes during their menstrual cycle can potentially affect their IBS symptoms.
Some may experience worsening symptoms, such as increased abdominal pain or bloating, or even heavy bleeding and severe menstrual cramps, during their period.
Notably, women with IBS may also experience chronic pelvic pain during their period due to fluctuating hormones (especially during or after menopause). However, chronic pelvic pain may also be an indication of endometriosis.
If you’ve noticed a correlation between your menstrual cycle and IBS-like symptoms, it's important to discuss this with a healthcare professional to get diagnosed and explore potential treatment options.
Q7: Do you experience symptoms during times other than your menstrual cycle?
While hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can influence IBS symptoms, it’s also important to consider whether you experience IBS symptoms at other times as well.
If you find that your abdominal pain, bloating, or changes in bowel movements occur outside of your menstrual cycle, it could be an indication of IBS, too.
Notably, while both IBS and endometriosis symptoms can fluctuate throughout the month, IBS is usually more consistent in its comings and goings.
Q8: Have your symptoms affected your quality of life or daily activities?
Living with IBS can be challenging both physically and emotionally. Left undiagnosed and untreated, IBS can have a serious impact on your quality of life and daily activities.
If you find that your symptoms are interfering with your ability to work, socialize, or engage in everyday activities, it’s critical that you address them with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Only a qualified healthcare professional can help you get to the bottom of what, exactly, is causing your symptoms before providing guidance and support to help you better manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being.
Q9: Have you tried dietary changes or stress-management techniques? If so, did they help?
Dietary modifications and stress management techniques are often recommended as part of the management plan for individuals with IBS.
If you’ve already experimented with changing your diet by eliminating certain trigger foods or following a low FODMAP diet, or if you have implemented stress reduction techniques like mindfulness or meditation, did they work?
Assess whether these interventions have provided any relief or improvement in your symptoms. Sharing this information with your healthcare professional can contribute to a more personalized treatment plan.
Q10: Have you noticed a relationship between sexual activity and your abdominal discomfort or pain?
While experiencing discomfort or pain with sexual activity isn’t uncommon, it’s also not a symptom to ignore.
If you find that your abdominal discomfort or pain is linked to or worsened by sexual activity, it's crucial to take note and discuss this with your healthcare provider.
While IBS can sometimes cause discomfort during sexual activity, it's not typically a primary symptom. IBS symptoms are largely centered around changes in bowel habits and abdominal pain, usually relieved by a bowel movement.
So if you're experiencing consistent discomfort or pain during or after sexual activity, it could be a sign of another condition.
One such condition is endometriosis, where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside of it, often leading to pain during sexual activity. This pain can range from slight discomfort to severe pain, and its intensity can vary from person to person.
While there might be various underlying causes to any kind of pain you feel, a qualified medical professional can help determine the root cause and guide you towards the best treatment options.
What to do if you think you have IBS (or if you aren't sure)
Self-assessment tools like this quiz are helpful for gaining insights, but they should not replace professional medical advice.
Regardless of your answers to this quiz, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive diagnosis. Think of your quiz results as a starting point for a conversation with your doctor to embark on a journey that will help you better manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Find Relief From IBS
There are several other conditions with similar symptoms to IBS, such as endometriosis. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's crucial to seek medical help for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Delgado at The CPP Center specializes in treating IBS, endo, and their co-occurring symptoms and conditions. For the past 10 years, she has dedicated her practice to providing lasting relief from pelvic pain and discomfort.
Contact The CCP Center today to find the answers—and healing—you deserve.