Poor diet, increased consumption of processed foods, or general anxiety and stress about life issues have made gut-related conditions all too common. Some studies estimate that up to 40% of adults worldwide experience digestive problems, and experts believe that number may continue to rise.
Of this 40%, a large number will be diagnosed with some form of irritable bowel syndrome. With this condition, individuals struggle with stomach pain, disrupted gut health, and often unpredictable bowel movements.
Fortunately, there is a growing body of research to help the average person identify symptoms and begin the process of receiving a diagnosis. In this article, we’ll bring you up to speed on IBS and how to assess your symptoms. We have listed 10 short questions below that prompt you to evaluate your symptoms and see if they match one of the types of IBS. Based on your answers, you can determine if a consultation with a gut health nutritionist is needed.
IBS Symptom Quiz
Disclaimer: Please note that this quiz is a screening tool to assess risk for IBS and should not be used as a definitive diagnosis but rather as a guide. If you suspect you may have IBS, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Do you often feel abdominal pain or discomfort at least one day per week in the last three months?
- Do your bowel habits change during periods of discomfort or pain (i.e., you switch between diarrhea and constipation)?
- Do you notice a change in the frequency or form (appearance) of your stool when you have abdominal pain?
- Do you feel relief from abdominal pain after a bowel movement?
- Do you experience more frequent bowel movements when the abdominal pain starts?
- Do you often find it difficult to fully evacuate during a bowel movement?
- Do you see mucus in your stool more than twice a week?
- Have you experienced a sudden urge to have a bowel movement that's difficult to control?
- Have you noticed a change in the color or consistency of your stool?
- Have your symptoms been persistent for at least six months?
- Do you experience bloating or noticeable abdominal swelling?
- Does your bloating often occur after eating certain foods?
- Have you observed a relationship between your stress levels and changes in your bowel patterns?
- Do periods of heightened stress lead to increased discomfort or irregular bowel movements?
- Have you noticed a link between emotional distress (like anxiety or depression) and the severity of your symptoms?
This self-assessment tool is here to help you recognize potential risk factors related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you respond "yes" to two or more of questions 1-5, this might indicate symptoms frequently associated with IBS. Further, should you answer "yes" to five or more of questions 6-15, it could suggest you're experiencing additional symptoms typically linked to IBS.
Remember, though, this tool does not serve to diagnose IBS. Its purpose is to aid in identifying potential risk factors that you can discuss with your healthcare provider. A valid diagnosis can only be confirmed by a qualified medical professional. If your answers to these questions raise any concerns, we strongly encourage further consultation with a healthcare provider.
Moreover, if you didn't answer "yes" to the aforementioned conditions, but you're noticing discomfort or changes in your digestive habits, it's still advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any potential health issues.
At Top Nutrition Coaching, we offer one-on-one consultations with registered dietitians specializing in gut health. From the comfort of your own home, you can discuss your symptoms, dietary habits, and receive personalized guidance and treatment strategies. Proper nutrition is a key component in managing symptoms and enhancing your quality of life when dealing with IBS, so take the step today and get the support you need.
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?
IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is a gastrointestinal condition that affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States alone, nearly 15% of the nation’s population. IBS symptoms often include abdominal pain, irregular bowel habits, and either diarrhea or constipation.
Of those who develop IBS, roughly two-thirds are women. Scientists attribute this disparity to increased estrogen and progesterone, both of which have been shown to significantly impede the digestive system. Although experts are not yet certain what causes IBS, some studies have indicated that persistent inflammation may be partially to blame.
The Four Types of IBS
Although many people mistakenly believe that IBS symptoms are uniform across all patients, medical professionals outline four types of the disease, each with its own set of dominant symptoms and each requiring a different treatment option. Despite their differences, each of these subtypes of IBS occurs in a relatively equal percentage of patients.
Defined as "mostly constipation and abdominal pain," this subcategory of IBS usually involves stomach pain of varying intensity and difficulty with bowel movements. IBS-C is generally treated with dietary modifications such as eliminating alcohol, taking prescription medications, and increasing exercise.
Defined as "mostly diarrhea and abdominal pain," this subcategory of IBS is perhaps most likely to cause anxiety, as patients frequently suffer from a sudden and urgent need to evacuate their bowels. Treatment for IBS-D typically involves identifying food-based triggers, prescription medications to relieve bloating and discomfort, and probiotics.
Because IBS-M is a mixture of IBS-D and IBS-C, most people suffering from this subcategory of the condition experience diarrhea and constipation with little to no consistency between the two. Due to the unpredictable nature of IBS-M, efforts to determine a treatment can be difficult. Nonetheless, changes in the foods you eat, medications such as antibiotics, antidepressants, or antispasmodics, and therapy to minimize stress can all help manage the condition.
Technically classified as an "undefined subtype," this version of irritable bowel syndrome may present with different symptoms across patients. However, most patients will suffer from abdominal pain, irregular stools, and significant impairments to their quality of life.
Most Common IBS Symptoms
One of the primary issues with properly diagnosing irritable bowel syndrome is the tendency for many of its gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms to resemble those of other conditions, such as celiac disease. Because of this challenge, it's crucial to identify all of your symptoms. In doing so, you maximize the chances that your doctor will properly assess the root cause. To help your doctor better diagnose IBS, think about whether you've experienced symptoms such as:
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Irregular bowel movements
- Inconsistent stool appearance
- Constipation or diarrhea
If you frequently experience one or more of these symptoms, consider contacting your doctor to schedule a meeting, discuss diagnostic criteria, and outline potential treatment options. Additionally, identifying the triggers related to each symptom can prove helpful in obtaining a proper IBS diagnosis.
Although your healthcare professional may prescribe various medications depending on the type of IBS from which you suffer, most treatments will involve adjusting your diet to eliminate potential triggers and reduce underlying inflammation. For instance, following a high-fiber diet can help ease IBS symptoms.
Importantly, experts have identified certain foods such as alcohol, dairy products, caffeine, and cruciferous vegetables as high-risk for those dealing with IBS.
Benefits of Receiving an IBS Diagnosis
At face value, the primary benefit of any medical diagnosis is to identify treatments to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Because of the unpredictable and often embarrassing nature of IBS, however, obtaining a diagnosis can also help reduce anxiety and give you the support you need to move through your days with confidence.
Before you begin, it's important to note that few tests currently exist to diagnose IBS directly. Even so, your doctor may perform other tests to rule out similar gut-related illnesses such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Usually, your practitioner will perform a physical exam during which they draw a sample of your blood. This test measures specific markers within your blood, and recently developed versions can identify IBS caused by food poisoning.
Once you've taken an IBS quiz and undergone a formal assessment, you may be advised to contact a licensed gastrointestinal nutritionist to develop a custom meal plan and identify food-based triggers that exacerbate your symptoms.
Benefits of Working with a Gut Health Registered Dietitian
There are many ways that a registered dietitian nutritionist can help you manage your IBS, from helping you develop an individualized eating plan to teaching you more about healthy eating strategies.
Personalized Assessment and Guidance
One of the most significant benefits of working with a gut health nutritionist is that you will receive a personalized treatment plan. While conducting your own research can provide a solid starting point, general information about IBS may prove inadequate or even misleading when applied to your specific disorder. Since the causes and symptoms of IBS can vary greatly among individuals, it is crucial for your treatment to be specifically tailored to address your unique disorder and experience.
Once your specific IBS characteristics have been assessed, a registered dietitian nutritionist or registered dietitian will develop customized materials such as meal planning guides and weekly goals. These resources will serve as valuable tools to navigate your disorder, allowing you to gain further insights into your IBS triggers and effectively manage your condition.
Healthy Eating Habits
Not only will a gut health nutritionist help you manage your IBS, but they will also equip you with the tools and information you need to independently manage your condition. Once you have identified your trigger foods, you will gradually learn how to plan meals for your needs on your own, accounting for foods you can’t eat, overall nutritional needs, and food preferences.
Making small changes to your eating habits can drastically improve your IBS symptoms. Gut health nutritionists will gradually teach you tips and tricks that offer relief and reduce future flare-ups. For instance, eating your meals at the same time every day can help regulate your bowels, as can eating small, frequent meals instead of large ones.
Relax and de-stress
Stress can be particularly harmful to people with IBS, simulating spasms in the colon and causing discomfort and pain. Because IBS is a stress-sensitive disorder, finding ways to manage it will be a significant component of your treatment plan.
A gut health nutritionist can help you develop strategies and coping mechanisms that work for you, whether that’s speaking with a therapist every week, getting an extra hour of sleep every night, or taking a 30-minute walk after lunch.
How to Find a Reliable IBS Quiz
First and foremost, any self-assessment should only be used as a preliminary resource before reaching out to a licensed physician. Even the best test cannot take the place of a visit to your doctor, despite the fact that there are numerous top gastrointestinal experts who create high-quality tests.
Even so, for those looking to determine whether such a visit is appropriate, finding a credible online assessment can help prepare you for the process ahead.
If a test like this is right for you, follow these tips to get the most from your experience.
How to Find the Best "Do I Have IBS" Quiz
Poor gut and digestive health can often have profound consequences for your general health and quality of life. Because of this, it's essential that you trust only the most reputable sources when performing a self-assessment. Specifically, look for an online test from academic or governmental organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and always check whether a test is third-party reviewed.
Read the Instructions
Because you're taking a test without the guidance of your primary physician, it's important to ensure that you fully understand the test's guidelines and instructions. Take as much time as you need to familiarize yourself with the fine print before beginning the test.
Prepare Your Answers
Often, self-assessments will ask questions that require a bit of personal research and thought. Before you begin, consider compiling a rough family medical history, any triggers you've identified, and specific circumstances during which you've experienced symptoms.
Review Your Results
Obtaining a diagnosis for a chronic disease is a process, and it can sometimes point you in directions you weren't expecting. Once you've completed your self-assessment and received your results, consider looking over your results with a trusted friend or bringing them with you to your next doctor's visit.
Potential Outcomes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Testing
Once your IBS quiz is complete, you'll likely be faced with one of three situations. These are:
Although no online test can definitively diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, it may be that your results indicate a strong likelihood of a gastrointestinal issue. If this is the case, we suggest reaching out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible to schedule a full exam.
Just like no online test can concretely determine that you have IBS, no online test can determine that you do not. So, it may be that your self-assessment indicates you are likely suffering from a different condition. Regardless, scheduling an appointment with a nutritionist is a wise next step.
Further Testing Required
Even with the most accurate online testing available, it's all but assured that you will need further testing to achieve a precise diagnosis. If your results are inconclusive, we again suggest that you contact your doctor to set up an appointment.
The Bottom Line
As you may have gathered from the section above, our general advice is to speak with your physician about any uncomfortable or painful symptoms. Even so, taking the time to find a reputable online symptom quiz can help prepare you for the experience of a formal diagnosis. As with any medical issue, information is invaluable, not only for its ability to inform treatment but also to minimize stress and give you peace of mind.
Remember that you are your own greatest ally when it comes to maintaining your health, and the more informed you are, the more healthy you'll be. That being said, it may also be in your best interest to find a partner or ally in your journey toward better health. Whether that person is a physician or a licensed gut health coach, having an expert in your corner can often mean the difference between living your healthiest lifestyle and not.