When you’re one of the 15 percent
Most of us have experienced some mild gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, such as gas, bloating, pain in the lower belly, and constipation or diarrhea. When it comes to constipation or diarrhea, the symptoms may be attributed to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS, like many syndromes, is a diagnosis that can read like a laundry list of symptoms, but no one can pinpoint the actual cause. IBS affects 10 to 15 percent of the worldwide population, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. In order to make the diagnosis of IBS, symptoms generally need to persist longer than six months. If you have abdominal pain that’s not accompanied by bowel changes like constipation or diarrhea, here are some other causes of stomach pain and discomfort that are not irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptom: You feel discomfort in your belly
For some, a key tip-off to an IBS diagnosis is lower abdominal pain occurring on and off for a few months—but only if it’s accompanied by bowel changes, such as diarrhea or constipation or both, says Eamonn M.M. Quigley, MD, director of the Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders at Houston Methodist Hospital. There’s an impressive amount of evidence accruing that a gut dysbiosis, or disturbed intestinal ecology, is at the root of IBS, notes a report in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Correspondingly, manipulation of gut bacteria—by taking probiotics, prebiotics, and either specialized antibiotics or herbal antimicrobials—represents promising new treatment.