Has your stomach been telling you that something is not right, but you can’t figure out what it is?
Have you tried eating less of the things you love and more of the “healthy” alternatives to still find yourself spending too much time on the toilet and feeling helpless about your bowel problems?
Has your doctor told you that, “It’s probably just IBS, try eliminating gluten from your diet and see if that helps,” and sent you on your way?
Then you’re likely panicking and asking yourself, “how do I find out if it actually is IBS?” and “are there any tests for irritable bowel syndrome?” Next, you rush to your computer and frantically Google “IBS quiz” or “how do I know if I have IBS” or “do I have IBS quiz,” which ultimately leads you here, to this article.
Don’t stress, you are in the right place.
Unfortunately, IBS is a tricky animal that can be very difficult to pin down and treat/manage and many healthcare providers haven’t had the training on how to do so.
So before you throw in the towel, take a second to sit, take a breath and go through this questionnaire, which should shed some light on why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and what to do next.
But first, let’s talk a little bit about IBS and what it is.
What is IBS?
The definition of IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is “abdominal pain or discomfort that occurs in association with altered bowel habits over a period of at least three months.” It is also classified as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, which means that the way the GI tract functions has been disrupted.(1)
Another commonality is that symptoms such as stomach pain/discomfort and bloating often accompany food. In fact, almost 2/3 of people with IBS say their symptoms are triggered when they eat a meal. (2)
Diagnosing IBS with certainty can be difficult because there is no change in the GI structure. Therefore, it is often used as a blanket diagnosis when all other conditions have been ruled out. It is also extremely common for patients suffering from IBS to go undiagnosed for 2 or more years (sometimes over 10!). (1)
That being said, it is possible to make a diagnosis if you know what you’re looking for. This is done by taking a careful history of symptoms, excluding certain criteria – such as symptoms starting after age 50, unexplained weight loss, and a family history of other GI diseases – and doing specific tests to rule out other diseases that can often look like IBS. (3)
The next step is to identify the main symptom – diarrhea, constipation, mixed or unclassified (IBS-D, IBS-C, IBS-M, or IBS-U respectively) – in order to create a customized treatment and management plan. (3)
Treatment for IBS is highly individualized and involves addressing the specific symptoms. It also requires making some dietary and lifestyle changes. (1, 2, 3, 4)
The most studied dietary change for alleviating a range of IBS symptoms is following the low-FODMAP diet protocol and therefore is often the first dietary intervention. (5, 6, 7, 8)
However, following a restrictive diet isn’t appropriate for everyone. Especially for those who are experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating habits. It’s important to explore alternative treatment options in these situations. Fortunately, recent research shows treatments such as gut-directed hypnotherapy to be just as effective as following a low-FODMAP diet. (9)
Additional pharmacological treatments have been tried and studied depending on the type of IBS (IBS-D vs IBS-C, etc.), however the quality of available research to support these treatments is minimal. (4) That being said, the supplemental treatment with the most evidence to support its effectiveness is the use of peppermint oil. (10, 11, 12)
All in all, the only sure way treat IBS is by working with a trusted healthcare professional who specializes in functional GI disorders. The treatment plan will consist of managing the symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes, while also trying to identify a root cause/reason why the symptoms started in the first place.
If this background information has piqued your interest and you want gauge where your own symptoms fall, it’s time to take a preliminary IBS symptoms quiz. Below are 13 questions inspired by the Rome IV Diagnostic Criteria for IBS. Work through these questions and take the answers to your gut health professional for further discussion. (13)
Do I Have IBS Quiz
This is not a medically validated questionnaire. This is only a starting point and cannot replace the insight and expertise of your healthcare provider. Working with someone who specializes in gastrointestinal (GI) health is the fastest and safest way to get to living a symptom-free life. This is not an official diagnosis.
Symptoms can vary over time, therefore in order to get an accurate picture of what is going on now please answer the following questions based on how you’ve felt over the past 10 days.
IBS is one of the most common functional GI disorders but unfortunately it can be very difficult to diagnose. There are two reasons this might be the case. One, symptoms of IBS often mimic other gut conditions and two, the healthcare professional is not trained in how to identify or treat IBS.
If the “Do I Have IBS?” Quiz identified any of any of the following situations, it’s a good idea to find a practitioner who specializes in functional GI disorders:
- You are experiencing altered BMs and at least one of the other symptoms.
- Your symptoms have been present for at least 3 months.
- You answered “Yes”, “Sometimes” or “Often” to any of the other questions.
As mentioned above, this is not a diagnostic quiz. Instead it’s meant to provide a starting point for you and your gut health specialist to jump off from.