If you have IBS, you know that symptoms can sometimes be intrusive, unpleasant, and even frustrating. IBS also affects every patient differently, making managing your condition very personal. To learn more about how our community members deal with their IBS symptoms, we asked the community, “Which IBS symptom is the most frustrating to cope with and manage?”
Frustrated By Pain & Cramping
“The pain and weakness I have keeps me from doing everyday chores.”
“When the descending colon will not stop spasming. Waves of pain!!!”
“The real bad cramping”
“Unexpected stomach pain”
Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of IBS, and may include discomfort, gas pain, bloating, and/or stomach cramping.1 According to many of our community members, the cycle of IBS pain can be frustrating, especially when it prevents you from getting things done, or enjoying time with friends and family. While abdominal pain is common for people with IBS, options for relief may be available: If you’re struggling with abdominal pain, consider talking to your healthcare provider about trying a new approach to your IBS management (such an antibiotics, probiotics, or antispasmodics).2
Frustrated By Diarrhea
“Bad cramping accompanied by diarrhea”
“The diarrhea by far. Having to go to the ER twice a month for fluids is really hard to explain to the doctor on call.”
For many of our community members, frequent or sudden diarrhea is the most frustrating IBS symptom. Diarrhea can interrupt your day (again and again), make you feel dehydrated, and even give you sensitivity or soreness down below. To manage the difficulties of diarrhea, some patients use Over-The-Counter products, and others rely on prescription medications.3 If you experience diarrhea, be sure drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (typically one extra cup of water per bowel movement).4 To prevent soreness after several trips to the bathroom, many of our community members also recommend having bathroom wipes readily available, including at home, at work, and in your car.
Frustrated By Gas & Bloating
“Constant gas, every day for 19 years. And the bloating associated with it.”
“The never ending bloat and gas that won’t expel. Painful and so uncomfortable.”
“Bloating in the evenings. I look so pregnant.”
“I think the flatulence is the worst symptom… If I am out I can’t just release the wind at that time, I hold it in and hold it in till it makes me feel physically sick”
“The bloating – I have clothes for bloating days and non-bloating days!”
Although many people experience occasional flatulence and bloating, if you have IBS, you know that frequent gas and bloat can be very frustrating. For people with IBS, gas is more common with diarrhea-predominant IBS, while bloating is more common in constipation-predominant and mixed-IBS. According to community members, IBS-related bloating can make you feel like you have “bloat baby”, or just feel generally uncomfortable. However, research suggests that antibiotics or other medications may help with IBS-bloating,5 so talk to your doctor if you are struggling with this uncomfortable symptom.
Whether you’re around people and don’t want to attract attention, or if you can’t get the gas out, not being able to release the pressure of IBS flatulence often makes your abdominal discomfort worse. For many community members, you know how frustrating it can be to feel physically uncomfortable while holding your gas in, and then equally as embarrassing if your gas escapes. If you’re feeling gassy and frustrated, consider one of these methods to reduce gas (such as supplements, essential oils, or probiotics).
Frustrated By Constipation
“Mine is IBS with chronic constipation. Very miserable feeling!!”
“Not knowing if it’s going to be a diarrhea day or a constipation day.”
“Taking an anti-diarrhea pill to prevent an accident and then being bloated and constipated”
For many community members, constipation is the most frustrating part of IBS, especially when you get that feeling of incomplete relief, even after having a bowel movement. For many of you (especially those affected by IBS-M), the most frustrating part of IBS is bouncing between constipation and diarrhea, particularly when taking laxatives or fiber supplements. While some people seek constipation relief through medical remedies,6 you might also consider these exercises for nature constipation relief.
Frustrated By Urgency & Unpredictability
“Urgency. When I gave to go, I HAVE TO GO IMMEDIATELY!”
“Having to use the bathroom 20 minutes after eating and cramping”
“Pooping my pants isn’t much fun”
“The unpredictability…affects EVERYTHING you want to do!!”
“Wrong moments at important special times”
“The sudden stomach cramps and diarrhea! And at least I am prepared now with wet wipes and mini pads.”
For many patients, the most frustrating part of IBS is dealing with the urgency and unpredictability. Whether you’re experiencing sudden diarrhea, or wondering how you’ll feel at a special event, the surprises of IBS are never welcome. To get ahead of IBS incontinence, our community members suggest keeping necessary supplies on hand, such as a change of clothes/underwear, wet wipes, and anti-diarrheal medications.
If your flare-ups tend to come on suddenly, you may find yourself cancelling plans, or avoiding commitments all together, to prevent a mishap. Although you can’t completely control your IBS, many of our community members use a symptom diary, and keep IBS-supplies on hand (like medications, safe snacks, and extra clothes) to minimize the impact of IBS unpredictability.
Frustrated by Constant Worrying
“The embarrassing noises coming out from the abdomen”
“Trying to explain why I can’t eat something, or why it seems like I’m always running to the loo.”
“What if I can’t hold in the gas until I get some privacy? What if it smells really strongly? What if I can’t keep it quiet as I let out the gas?”
“Having to go somewhere and hoping you don’t feel sick, or getting there and worrying about the bathroom”
For many of you, the most frustrating IBS symptom is the worrying. Whether you’re figuring out what you can eat, thinking about how to find the bathroom, or even worried about the noises and smells coming from your body, all the IBS worries can make it difficult to cope. If you’re constantly worried about your IBS, spend some time on self-care and stress management. Coping with IBS is a journey, and for most patients, it takes time. If you need help managing IBS stress, you can also seek help from a therapist, lean on your family and friends, or get help from the IBS community.
Health Union. "Common symptoms of IBS." IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, Health Union, irritablebowelsyndrome.net/symptoms/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
Health Union. "Symptoms of IBS: Stomach pain and cramps." IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, Health Union, irritablebowelsyndrome.net/symptoms/stomach-pain-common-sign-symptom-of-ibs/#. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
Health Union. "Symptoms of IBS: Diarrhea." IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, Health Union, irritablebowelsyndrome.net/symptoms/diarrhea-common-sign-symptom-of-ibs/. Accessed 25 Sept.2017.
Downward, Emily. "The importance of water." IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, Health Union, 10 Feb. 2017, irritablebowelsyndrome.net/living/the-importance-of-water/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
Health Union. "Symptoms of IBS: Bloating." IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, Health Union, irritablebowelsyndrome.net/symptoms/bloating-common-sign-symptom-of-ibs/. Accessed 25 Sept.2017.
Health Union. "Symptoms of IBS: Constipation." IrritableBowelSyndrome.net, Health Union, irritablebowelsyndrome.net/symptoms/constipation-common-sign-symptom-of-ibs/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.