Irregular bowel movements and abdominal pain happen to everyone at some point. Something simple like traveling can change the way you feel and upset even the most consistent bathroom habits. You may shrug off the suggestion of IBS because it’s not like you have abdominal pain after every meal. But do you know the other signs of irritable bowel syndrome? Every part of your body is linked together. You may be overlooking crucial indicators of IBS because you just don’t know what to look for. Let us show you how the different areas of your body can be affected by IBS. It may be time to call a gastroenterologist today.

Abdominal Signs


Many of the symptoms associated with IBS do occur in your abdomen. If you experience any of these signs, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. You don’t have to endure these uncomfortable symptoms—treatment is possible.

  • Pain & Cramping: When the muscles in your lower abdomen contract more frequently than they are designed to, you will experience pain and discomfort. This is likely because the brain and the gut do not always communicate effectively in someone with IBS.
  • Bloating: As gas gathers in your gut, your abdomen can feel more full and appear more round.
  • FODMAP Sensitivity: Carbohydrates that can cause inflammation and irritate your intestine are fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols, or FODMAP. If you experience a FODMAP sensitivity, you will have excessive gas after eating foods like onion, garlic, avocado, beans, lentils, almonds, and cashews.
  • Excessive Gas: Scientists think that people with IBS may have a bacteria in their gut that produces toxins causing excess gas. Others feel that those with IBS cannot transport gas or tolerate it well which leads them to feel gassy on a regular basis.

Bowel Signs


Your gut is designed to contract and relax in a rhythmic manner allowing you to have normal, consistent bowel movements. When this rhythm is disrupted, you will have diarrhea or be constipated. Your body may be alerting you that IBS affects you when you regularly experience either diarrhea or constipation. In some cases, these two irregularities alternate.

  • Diarrhea: One of the most common symptoms of IBS, diarrhea occurs when your bowel muscles contract frequently.   
  • Constipation: Constipation is described by having less than three bowel movements in seven days, or experiencing pain and difficulty when passing a stool. As the opposite of diarrhea, constipation occurs when the muscles in your gut do not contract regularly like they should.

Non-Intestinal Signs


Your whole body is one organism. Therefore, the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are not isolated to your intestine. Your entire body can be affected by this disorder—mentally, physically, and emotionally.

  • Joint Pain: Doctors link joint pain and IBS to increased inflammation throughout your body.
  • Fatigue: Feeling extremely tired and fatigued is one of the most common symptoms of IBS.
  • Brain Fog: If you have difficulty concentrating, or experience impaired judgment, mental confusion, and foggy thinking, you may have IBS. There is a strong relationship between your intestine and your brain. When one isn’t working at full capacity, neither is the other.
  • Stress: Stress can be a vicious cycle. Sometimes a stressful season in life can cause your IBS symptoms to flare up. In other cases, the presence of IBS symptoms leads to stress. This is because the nervous system controls your GI tract and reacts to psychological stress.

The good news about IBS is that it is treatable. You and your GI doctor can come up with a plan that works for you to help you minimize and avoid common symptoms. So, don’t wait to see a doctor about your concerns. If you experience any of the symptoms addressed, make an appointment with us at Cary Gastro.