Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one digestive issue that you should not ignore, but it is not always obvious to identify.

The symptoms of IBS can appear during childhood, and then gradually worsen each year. It affects 20% of all Americans and most never get their IBS treated – that is until the discomfort is unbearable.

Here are a few signs your digestive issue may be more than a stomachache:

You have two or more specific symptoms.

IBS is a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine. It can cause diarrhea, constipation, bloating, cramps, gas and mucus to be present in the stool. If you’ve been experiencing two or more of these symptoms at least one day a week for the past month, it is best to consult with a doctor.

You are experiencing frequent abdominal pain.

You’ll feel intense cramps and stomach aches all around your abdomen. The pain is hardly ever isolated to one particular area but instead, constantly moving around from one spot of the stomach to another.

You don’t have alarming symptoms.

Although IBS can become very uncomfortable, it is not life-threatening. Also, there are certain symptoms you should not be experiencing. Blood in the stool, unintentional weight loss, waking up in the night because of severe pain and having a fever are not related to IBS, and it is best to see a GI doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of these.

Your bowel habits have changed.

Over time, changes in your bowel patterns become evident. Most will experience a different frequency of time between movements and abnormally shaped stool.

You’ve been tested for food sensitivities and other health conditions with no positive results.

IBS can be very similar to other gastrointestinal disorders; therefore, it is important for your doctor to run additional tests to rule out other GI issues. It is also helpful to pay attention when you eat foods like dairy, gluten and sugar to see if it triggers any discomfort in your stomach.

If you’ve been having digestive problems, and recognize some of these signs, set up an appointment with one of our doctors to talk about the possibility of IBS.