Hey there! I'm going to re-print a post I wrote a long time ago to another newbie that has some basic information I think might be helpful...
There are a ton of wonderful peeps here who can guide you through the world of IBS. The most common symptoms are bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, and either diarrhea, constipation, or both. Those are the hallmark symptoms, and you have to have them for a period of at least 12 weeks (can be intermittently) before an IBS diagnosis should be made. Also, some testing should be done to exclude other problems - about a gazillion million other things can cause similar symptoms, including food allergies, parasitic infections, bacterial overgrowth, etc.
In my humble (but sadly experienced) opinion, the following tests should be done at the get-go:
- Bloodwork. Complete blood count (CBC) and comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), plus a sed rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) if you are having other symptoms such as fever or blood in your stool.
- Stool studies. YUM! Three ova/parasite tests (O&Ps) are necessary because parasites and ova are shed intermittently in stools, so they may not catch 'em with just one. Even with three, it's not always a sure thing. These O&Ps are an absolute MUST if you've had any recent foreign travel. Also, fecal occult blood and fecal leukocyte tests should be done. IBSers should not have positive fecal occult blood or leukocyte tests.
- Colonoscopy. It's not that bad. Really. If you are having very bad constipation or diarrhea (going only a couple times a week or more than 10x/day) this is an important test to rule out cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, etc. Also more important if you are over the age of 40.
Other tests can elucidate other causes. CT scans are good for determining whether there is an abscess or fistula in the abdomen (associated with Crohn's disease); a small bowel follow through (SBFT) can illuminate areas of inflammation indicative of inflammatory bowel disease or hernias. An upper endoscopy can help docs view the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the duodenum for inflammation, ulcers, etc. while a capsule endoscopy (camera pill) shows the entire length of the small bowel.
about 1 in 5 Americans reportedly suffer from IBS, and most of them don't go to a physician about it because, honestly, most people don't really like talking about their poo. But if it is bothering you, interfering with your life, just go to the doctor. I promise you that no doctor is going to be grossed out by your story. I come from a huge family of doctors, hoping to be one myself, and I swear our dinner conversations used to revolve around blood, guts, and poo on a regular basis. Anyone with a doctor in the family will know exactly what I mean.
Keeping a food diary is an absolute necessity and will make your doctor incredibly pleased and probably kiss your feet. Also keep a symptoms diary along with it: how many times you go a day, whether your stools are formed or not, when your stomach cramps occur, when you notice the most bloating, etc.