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Common Symptoms Of IBS

Abdominal pain and cramps

Abdominal pain is the most common symptom of IBS. Since it is so common, the absence of abdominal pain almost always excludes a diagnosis of IBS.1 Abdominal pain is a common complaint among all types of IBS.2-3


Diarrhea is a major part of IBS for people who are diarrhea-predominant and may be an issue for people with mixed- or alternating-IBS.1 Diarrhea is experienced by both men and women.4


Constipation is common in people with constipation-predominant IBS or mixed IBS.1 More women suffered from constipation than men.4

Gassiness or flatulence

Gas was considered to be the symptom most often experienced by diarrhea-predominant IBS sufferers.4 However, constipation-predominant IBS sufferers may also complain of gassiness.2


Bloating is more common in constipation-predominant IBS and mixed-IBS than in diarrhea-predominant IBS.4,5 Women were more likely to complain of bloating than men.5

Tenesmus or a feeling of incomplete bowel movement

People with IBS who have diarrhea may feel incomplete relief after a bowel movement. Some people with IBS who have constipation may have a similar feeling of incomplete relief after a bowel movement.1

Mucus in stool

Finding mucus in the stools occurs in about 40% of IBS sufferers. IBS sufferers with diarrhea may be more likely to have mucus in their stools during a bowel movement.1

Urgency and fecal incontinence

About one third of people with diarrhea-predominant IBS experienced loss of bowel control or sudden urges to have bowel movements.4 Though not as prevalent, people with mixed IBS or constipation-predominant IBS may also have fecal incontinence. It is equally prevalent in males and females.6


Nausea is a symptom among people with all types of IBS.4 However, nausea may be more prevalent in women than in men.7

Non-gastrointestinal symptoms

The most common non-gastrointestinal symptoms may be chronic fatigue syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and fibromyalgia.8

Written by: Truc Thanh | Last reviewed: June 2016.
  1. Wilkins T, Pepitone C, Alex B, Schade RR. Diagnosis and management of IBS in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2012;86:419-426.
  2. Heidelbaugh JJ, Stelwagon M, Miller SA, et al. The spectrum of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: US survey assessing symptoms, care seeking, and disease burden. Am J Gastroenterol. 2015;110:580-587.
  3. IBS Patients: Their Illness Experience and Unmet Needs. IFFGD 2009.
  4. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. IBS in the Real World Survey. Summary Findings. August 2002.
  5. Ringel Y, Williams RE, Kalilani L, Cook SF. Prevalence, characteristics, and impact of bloating symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009;7:68-72.
  6. Atarodi S, Rafieian S, Whorwell PJ. Faecal incontinence – the hidden scourge of irritable bowel syndrome: a cross-sectional study. BM Open Gastro. 2014;1:e000002.
  7. REF 1
  8. Bharadwaj S, Barber MD, Graff LA, Shen B. Symptomatology of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease during the menstrual cycle. Gastroenteroloy Report. 2015;3:185-193.
  9. World Gastroenterology Organisation Global Guidelines. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: a Global Perspective. Accessed 1/7/16 at: