Do you often feel that your stomach is in knots? Or worry that you’ll have to run to a bathroom at any point in the day? Do you ever notice that your stomach is so bloated a few hours after a meal that your clothes are tighter?

Between the cramping, bloating, pain and let’s face it, the frequent and unpredictable trips to the bathroom, you may have IBS-D, Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Diarrhea, and this might be exactly how you feel.

Could you have IBS-D? Take Nurse Barb’s Quiz

  1. Do you have recurrent and unpredictable bouts of diarrhea?
  2. Do you have abdominal pain that keeps coming back at least 1 day/week and is associated with going #2?
  3. Has your abdominal pain and diarrhea been affecting your life for 3 or more months?
  4. Has there been an increase in the number of times you go #2?
  5. Have you noticed that your #2 appears to be looser?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you should talk to your healthcare provider and ask if you could be like more than 15 million Americans with IBS-D. Your healthcare provider will want to evaluate your clinical history, perform a physical examination to ensure the diagnostic criteria for IBS-D are met, and that your symptoms are not being caused by other conditions. 

Experts weigh in on IBS-D – It’s unpredictable

Recently I attended an informational event with Dr. Mark Pimentel, Executive Director of the Medically Associated Science and Technology (MAST) program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

Dr. Pimentel explained that living with IBS can be enormously frustrating and that people with IBS-D often don’t know when they’re going to need to visit the bathroom, which can cause people to limit their lives for fear of not being able to find a restroom.

Imagine getting up in the morning to start your day and not knowing if you’ll visit the bathroom once or let’s say 12 times before dinner, and never knowing when the urgent and insistent need to use the restroom will come up.

If you have IBS-D, then you don’t have to imagine this, you probably know what it’s like to not know when you have to stop what you’re doing and find a bathroom––Quickly! No wonder people start to stay home and skip doing the things they love.

And, despite a lot of well-meaning advice about what foods to eat and which ones to avoid, people with IBS-D may find that they are unable to predict if they will experience symptoms on any given day or with any given food. One day that food might be fine, the next it might be problematic. It can be frustrating, confusing and depressing.

Quick Facts on IBS

  • IBS affects about 2 times as many women as men.
  • On average it takes about 4 years to finally receive a diagnosis.
  • Nearly 70% of people experience symptoms for at least one year before seeing a health care provider.

Some people with IBS experience constipation in more than 25% of bowel movements and also have diarrhea in more than 25% of bowel movements, this is known as mixed IBS.

What Causes IBS-D

  • While stress doesn’t seem to cause IBS-D, people with IBS-D may experience worsened symptoms during periods of increased stress.
  • There DOES seem to be a correlation with a previous history of having severe food poisoning, in some people.

– Aha! Could this information help us find effective treatments?

  • It’s thought that the food poisoning may alter the delicate balance of the bacteria, also known as the Gut microbiota, that lives and works in our intestinal tract. 
  • Altered gut microbiota may contribute to the development of IBS-D symptoms by increasing gas production and activation of the intestinal immune system.

Find a Gastrointestinal specialist

If you think that you might have IBS-D, then DO find a gastrointestinal specialist, known as a GI specialist, who has experience with IBS-D. Your primary care provider may not be as familiar with the latest research and treatments.

I know that this may be embarrassing to talk about, but the talk doesn’t have to be as uncomfortable as the symptoms. 

My tips for preparing to talk to your health care provider about your symptoms

  • It helps to keep a diary of your symptoms and possible triggers for at least 1 week
  • Include information about what you’re eating and drinking
  • Note anything that may have caused stress
  • If you’re a woman, mark down where in your cycle you are
  • Make a list of all of your medications

Questions about IBS-D for your health care provider

  • Could stress, diet or my medications be contributing to my symptoms?
  • Do you recommend any lifestyle changes?
  • Should I change my diet?
  • What IBS-D treatment options are available?

I hope this helps you find the information and treatment options to help you manage your symptoms and get back to enjoying the activities you like.

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