Most of us have heard the phrase "IBS" before, but many people don't know exactly what it means. Because the term is so vague, many people don't even realize they have the condition, but it's important to be aware of some of the more unexpected signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), especially if you have stomach issues and are not sure why. IBS is a chronic and common condition of the gastrointestinal tract, and it typically involves abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits. But symptoms can vary greatly in people and may even go unrecognized.
"Many people who suffer from symptoms may simply assume they have a sensitive stomach without realizing they might have IBS," Dr. Andrea Sunae Shin, gastroenterologist at IU Health, tells Bustle. "IBS symptoms can be a difficult or uncomfortable topic for individuals to discuss with their physicians or healthcare providers, thus many may not realize they have IBS or symptoms of IBS."
Although it is not a life-threatening condition, IBS can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life, making it important to spot. Typically, symptoms include pain with bowel movements, diarrhea, and constipation. But some symptoms are less obvious. Here are seven unexpected signs of IBS all women should look out for, according to experts.
1Bloating & Belching
Someone with IBS might experience reoccurring bloating, gas, and belching. "This one seems doesn’t seem like an obvious symptom, but symptoms of IBS aren’t very severe," says Dr. Shin. "A lot all patients suffer from severe symptoms, making it harder for patients to detect something’s wrong or seek medical attention early on." But if you notice this symptom, coupled with a few other indicators, it may be best to get a second opinion from your doctor.
Chronic fatigue can also occur as a result of IBS, says Dr. Shin. Many people with IBS also experience Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and although it is unclear why, both conditions may develop after an infection, according to Everyday Health. Researchers also hypothesize it could be genetic or have to do with an overactive immune response. Of course, chronic fatigue can be the result of many things, so speaking to your doctor will hep give you more clarity.
"Anxiety and depression are both more common in women and are often associated with IBS," Jack Braha, DO tells Bustle. "For many patients, treatment of underlying psychiatric disorders can bring a significant improvement in their IBS symptoms or in other cases, IBS symptoms have led to anxiety and depression and properly treating their IBS is the first step." Again, the best way to start is by contacting your doctor.
You might think it's from something you ate or your period cramps, but abdominal pain can be a symptom of IBS. "Recurring and frequent abdominal pain is a hallmark sign of of IBS," says Dr. Shin. "However, sometimes, patients just take this symptoms as diet-related versus something more serious, like IBS."
5Avoidance Of Social Situations
Some people with IBS avoid social situations because of the fear of a bathroom attack or pain. "Women with IBS often tell me that they avoid going on dates, traveling on the subway, or going to places without easy access to a bathroom (i.e. hiking, beaches or concerts)," says Braha. "Unfortunately, there have been women in my practice that have missed out on many of life’s great moments because they feared having to run to the bathroom or suffering from abdominal pain."
6Lower Back Pain
In addition to abdominal pain, many people with IBS often report that they experience lower back pain, according to Healthline. This occurs especially during the night. This pain can happen as a result of constipation and gas, both of which are symptoms of IBS.
7Heartburn & Indigestion
A person with IBS may also suffer from heartburn or indigestion. "These symptoms do not signify IBS in and of themselves, but can co-occur in many people who also suffer from IBS," says Dr. Shin.
If you have these symptoms and suspect you might have IBS, go see your doctor, who can give you the tests you need for a proper diagnosis.