What are the symptoms of IBS?

What are the symptoms of IBS?

What are the symptoms of IBS?

Being a chronic condition, people with IBS complain of abdominal pain and some or all of the symptoms mentioned below for about three days of the month. However, these symptoms tend to go away once one has had a bowel movement. Alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation may be experienced or the sensation of having these together, that is having diarrhoea but also feeling like you have not entirely evacuated your bowl. These symptoms can be continuous or disappear only to reappear later.

The most common symptoms can include:

  • Bloating
  • Stool with mucus
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

Some more severe symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain that continues and worsens through the night
  • Bleeding of the rectum (this should always be investigated by a doctor as it may be an indication of haemorrhoids or a more serious bowel issue).
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Weight loss

Symptoms between men and women tend to vary. The following depicts how the different sexes experience IBS:

IBS in men

Men are less susceptible to developing IBS. They also tend to not report their cases to their doctors, this results in a lack of concrete data.

Some doctors believe that due to men having different hormones than women, their gut is often not as sensitive to a woman’s. Another conclusion is that men simply do not like seeking help for their medical conditions unless they are life-threatening.

Lifestyle changes due to irritable bowel syndrome:

  • Men may experience a loss in their sexual desires and intimacy.
  • Men may find it difficult to work or perform daily chores due to IBS related discomfort and pain.
  • Depression is also known to me a symptom of the condition in men.

IBS in women

Doctors have found that women tend to be diagnosed with IBS during their childbearing years. These women are also more likely to report gynaecological disorders.

Common symptoms in women with IBS include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sensitivity to certain foods
  • Backache
  • Cramps
  • PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
  • Fatigue
  • Menstruation that is painful

IBS may also lead to:

Lifestyle changes

Women with IBS often have to run to the toilet frequently for bowel movements. This makes it difficult to function and perform properly at work and social events. This may also result in isolation and in turn, depression.

Varied symptoms according to the menstrual cycle Women with IBS tend to report that their symptoms are often varied according to the stages of their menstrual cycle. On the 14th day of their cycle (which often lines up with ovulation in a woman with regular periods), they tend to feel bloated and constipated. In the week before their menstrual cycle, they often have large amounts of abdominal pain as well as diarrhoea.

Difficulties in romantic relationships

Women tend to experience a loss of sexual desire if they have IBS. This is often due to them feeling pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse.


This condition occurs when the tissue that is typically found in the inner lining of the uterus grows outside it. This often results in fertility issues or infertility in women. Research has shown that women who suffer from this condition are more susceptible to experiencing IBS symptoms.


Symptoms of nausea, heartburn, constipation, and bowel movements are increased when women are pregnant. Researchers are trying to establish what the link between pregnancy and IBS is, seeing as many of the symptoms seem to overlap. Some doctors believe that these symptoms are the result of the force of pressure from the foetus pressing on the mother’s internal organs, but this is yet to be proven.

When to see a doctor

Less than one in five people with IBS seek out medical attention. It is vital to consult with your doctor should you find the symptoms of IBS to be chronic (persistent). Sometimes these symptoms, if experienced more severely, can be the result of colon cancer (not linked to IBS). Hence the importance of seeking medical attention to rule this out.

If cancer or more serious conditions have been ruled out, IBS is often the diagnosis. Your doctor may be able to lessen the pain you are experiencing and possibly prevent chronic diarrhoea and other more severe issues that can develop from IBS.  

PREVIOUS Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
NEXT What are the different types of IBS?