Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects millions of people in the United States and can cause various symptoms, ranging from minor annoyances to more serious disruption of everyday life. If you're here, chances are you already know that living with IBS can be a real challenge.

But don't worry—there is hope! While there's no cure for IBS, there are many ways to manage the symptoms and enjoy life again. In this article, we'll talk about some of the most common IBS symptoms and how to cope with them.

I know how hard it can be when your body doesn't cooperate with your plans. That's why I'm here to help you understand what's going on with your body so that you can manage your symptoms and get back into balance as soon as possible.

Abdominal Pain and Cramping: Common IBS Symptoms:

Many people with IBS experience abdominal pain and cramping. The severity of this pain can range from mild to severe. It often happens after eating a meal or after doing physical activities.

If you have IBS, it's normal to feel abdominal pain or cramping. To help relieve this, try to identify any symptom triggers that may be causing it and make any necessary lifestyle changes. Additionally, start an exercise routine, as this can help reduce the intensity of the cramps. Make sure to also stay hydrated and get enough sleep if possible. You may also want to consider supplementing with probiotics as this helps reduce inflammation in the GI tract and improve digestion.

Diarrhea or Constipation: Fluctuating Bowel Habits:

If you have IBS, you may experience fluctuating bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation. This can occur in a variety of combinations, from loose stools one day and constipation the next, to having both symptoms at the same time. Diarrhea may be more frequent and severe during periods of stress or following a large meal.

The character and consistency of your bowel movements may vary depending on how you’re feeling. For example, hard pellet-like stools may indicate constipation whereas soft or liquid stools indicate diarrhea. It’s important to note that both types of stool can be present in people with IBS.

In order to cope with the diarrhea and constipation associated with IBS, it is recommended that you make lifestyle changes such as increasing dietary fiber intake, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly and practicing relaxation techniques. Additionally, it is highly recommended that you speak with your doctor about medications that can help reduce the symptoms associated with IBS.

Bloating and Gas: Other Frequent IBS Symptoms:

Do you ever get bloated or experience gas after eating certain foods? If so, you could be dealing with two of the most common IBS symptoms—bloating and gas. It's nothing to be embarrassed about—bloating and gas can be caused by a number of issues and it's important to know when the signs are pointing to IBS.

The main thing to remember about bloating and gas is that it's usually caused by an imbalance in your gut bacteria, where bacteria that should be helping you digest food aren't doing their job correctly. This can mean that your body has difficulty digesting food, which leads to digestive trouble like bloating and gas.

Managing Bloating & Gas:

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do if bloating or gas seem to be symptoms of your IBS. Here are some tips:

  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day as opposed to larger meals less often
  • Avoid processed foods like those made with refined grains
  • Take probiotics regularly
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Exercise regularly

Taking these steps should help reduce your IBS symptoms like bloating and gas, but if they don't get better, talk to your doctor about other ways you can manage them.

Nausea: An Unpleasant IBS Symptom:

Nausea is an unpleasant symptom of IBS that can range from mild to severe. It may feel like uneasiness in your stomach or throat, accompanied by a queasy feeling in your abdomen. You may also experience feelings of fullness or bloating that can make the nausea worse.

There are several things you can do to cope with nausea caused by IBS:

  • Avoid eating large meals and aim for smaller portions throughout the day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol and carbonated drinks as these can worsen symptoms.
  • Try to identify and avoid foods that seem to trigger your nausea, such as fatty or fried foods, spicy foods, caffeine or dairy products.
  • Consider relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga to help reduce nausea.
  • If necessary, speak with your doctor about taking over-the-counter medications like antacids to reduce symptoms of nausea and acid reflux.

Food Sensitivities: How Diet Impacts IBS Symptoms:

Diet is one of the major contributors to IBS symptoms. Many who suffer from IBS are found to be sensitive or intolerant to some or all types of foods, although everyone is different in terms of which foods trigger their IBS. Common triggers include:

  • Dairy products
  • Gluten and FODMAPs
  • Fried or processed foods
  • Certain fruits and vegetables
  • Caffeine and alcohol

For those with IBS, it's a matter of trial and error to identify which foods are problematic. Keeping a food diary can help identify which particular foods cause problems and help you stay focused on maintaining an ideal diet for relief from symptoms. If you suspect certain foods are exacerbating your symptoms, talk with your doctor about trying an elimination diet to remove them from your diet for a period of time and see if there is an improvement. If needed, they can refer you to a nutritionist who can provide more individualized assistance.

Managing IBS Symptoms: Treatment Options to Try:

Living with IBS can be frustrating, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution that works perfectly for everyone. To manage your IBS symptoms, you'll want to try out a combination of different treatment options to find the one that's most effective for you.

Changes in diet:

Making changes to your diet is one of the most common treatments for IBS. You'll want to limit or avoid foods that seem to upset your stomach, such as certain fruits and vegetables, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods, and dairy products. Eating smaller meals more often can also help alleviate symptoms like bloating and cramping.

Stress relief methods:

Stress can worsen IBS symptoms—so finding ways to relax and reduce stress levels can help. Consider trying yoga, tai chi, mindfulness meditation or other relaxation techniques. It might also be helpful to speak with a qualified therapist if you're having trouble coping with stress in your day-to-day life.


Medication may also prove helpful in managing IBS symptoms — and there are many options available as prescribed by a doctor. For example antispasmodics for abdominal pain; laxatives or fiber supplements for constipation; antibiotics or probiotics depending on what type of IBS you have; antidepressants if needed; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have been found to improve quality of life and reduce diarrhea in some patients with irritable bowel syndrome; bile acid binders to reduce nasty side effects. Talk to your doctor about what might work best for you.

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All in all, living with IBS can be difficult, but there are ways to cope and even thrive in spite of it. Learning about what symptoms might be particularly difficult for you, and what lifestyle adjustments can be made to help you to manage those symptoms, is integral to managing IBS. Additionally, exploring natural treatments and therapies can be beneficial in helping to reduce symptoms. If you’re struggling with IBS symptoms, talking to your doctor can help you to develop an effective, comprehensive care plan.