How To Know If You Have IBS & Poor Digestion

by Isadora Baum, CHC
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Having poor digestion can really mess with you wellbeing and daily activities, as it can make you feel uncomfortable in the day and in frequent need of a bathroom run. It can also create anxiety, as you'll never know when a trigger might set off. Looking for signs that you have IBS can help you get clarification on what's going on in your body and how you can heal your gut, from the inside and out, as explained by Eamonn M. M. Quigley, MD, co-director of the Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders at Houston Methodist Hospital, over interview with Reader's Digest.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on balancing out their gut flora and enhancing proper digestion to absorb maximum nutrients, stay regular, and feel more comfortable throughout the day. There are some foods, health conditions, and behavioral factors that can contribute to digestion and stress and cause IBS symptoms. If you know that you have IBS or might be experiencing similar issues, it's worth altering your diet and lifestyle habits in order to see if you find improvement. Here are 11 ways to know that you might have IBS and what the next steps should be in healing your digestive tract.

1. Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Over email with Bustle, Jen Bruno, certified holistic health coach and personal trainer at J.B. Fitness, explains that a bad taste in your mouth, that does not come from food, like garlic, for instance, can signify IBS. If you notice a sour, gross taste without any clear explanation, it might be worth checking with a doctor.

2. Frequent Urge To Pee

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If you're always running to the bathroom to pee, even if there isn't any pee left, it could indicate IBS conditions, says Bruno. A need to frequently urinate can also be disruptive during the day, and if this is happening to you, consider changing diet or lifestyle patterns to reduce the urge.

3. Abnormal BMs

If your poop looks abnormal in size, shape, and all that other great stuff, then it could be a sign that you have IBS, explains Bruno. If you notice this happening to you, you should see a doctor to diagnose it or provide feedback for healing the gut and improving digestion.

4. Diarrhea

Over email with Bustle, certified healthy lifestyle coach, Liz Traines, explains that diarrhea can be a sign of IBS. If you are having softer stools than usual, and you're rushing to the bathroom more often, think about finding treatment to reduce symptoms and get your body back on track.

5. Painful Bowels

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Traines also says that pain associated with going to the bathroom can be a clear indicator of having IBS symptoms. If you struggle to go regularly, or find yourself having difficulty going after a meal, look into balancing your gut flora and smoothing digestion. "If this is happening to you, it's extremely important to keep a food journal to note what you're eating day in and day out, to pinpoint the food or foods that may be triggering it for you," says Diane Sanfilippo, Certified Nutrition Consultant and bestselling author of Practical Paleo over email with Bustle. "Common triggers include wheat, dairy, soy, corn, poor quality, refined vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, etc.), poor bacterial balance in the gut, and a stressful or traumatic life event," Sanfilippo adds.

6. Constipation

"If more than a day passes without a bowel movement, and this happens frequently - meaning more than once in a while - you could have IBS-C," explains Sanfilippo. "While it may seem counterintuitive that food that we don't tolerate can back things up rather than push everything out, it is also quite common. Common triggers for IBS-C include a high stress lifestyle, a traumatic life experience (death, injury, moving, or other stressful event), poor bacterial balance in the gut, or foods that aren't well tolerated such as wheat, dairy, corn, and soy," Sanfilippo says.

7. Bloating

Due to abnormal bowels, abnormal discomfort, and improper digestion in response to foods, it's common to experience bloating with IBS. If you notice your stomach being more distended than usual (I don't mean after a large meal), check in with a gastroenterologist for feedback regarding your condition.

8. Heart Palpitations

Bruno advises that heart palpitations can be a sign of IBS, and that if you notice your heart rate beating too fast or you're started to feel uneasy in your chest, it could be worth looking into the possibility of a digestive issue. Having heart palpitations can also come from anxiety, which can also act as a trigger for IBS. Either way, if something affects your heart in an abnormal way, definitely check with a doctor to rule out other conditions.

9. Loss of Appetite

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Over email with Bustle, running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer explains that when your body has IBS and is constantly losing nutrients and electrolytes, it can also make you feel less hungry overall. Not getting enough food in the day can be problematic for your health, so try and eat as many regular meals as possible.

10. Fatigue

Lemmer also says that having IBS can cause you to become chronically tired, as bloating and irregular bowel movements can drain the body of energy and make you feel more sluggish than usual. If you notice yourself feeling super tired, and you're getting adequate sleep, it might be due to an IBS condition.

11. Acid Reflux

According to both Bruno and gastroenterologist Lauren B. Gerson, MD, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, over interview with Everyday Health, acid reflux can often intertwine with symptoms of IBS, as the two conditions seem to overlap in many ways. Gerson says that 40 percent of people possess both IBS and acid reflux, when they have one of these conditions. You can expect excessive gas, nausea, and heartburn.

Having IBS can be painful and anxiety-inducing, and it's definitely worth speaking with a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and strategize the next steps towards healing the gut. When you have a smooth digestive process, you'll probably feel a lot healthier and happier in the day and more comfortable in your body.