Stomach grumbles may indicate more than a bad meal digested

If your gut has been acting up more than usual lately, it may be time to ask your doctor to check for irritable bowel syndrome, a symptom-based gastrointestinal disorder.

IBS can make life miserable. Its various symptoms may include chronic abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and oftentimes simple discomfort.

There is no specific test for IBS currently. A diagnosis is made after excluding other disorders, says Dr. Prabhakar Swaroop, a gastroenterologist and IBS expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“The clinical diagnostic criteria are very good in diagnosing IBS,” says Dr. Swaroop. “Unfortunately, many of the patients end up going through extensive testing before coming to the diagnosis of IBS. Seeing someone who specializes in IBS is important so that tests are minimized.”

Many patients with IBS have guts that are abnormally sensitive to certain stimuli, such as air. A common theory is that IBS involves an abnormality in cross talk between the brain and gastrointestinal tract.

Several conditions have symptoms that mimic those of IBS, including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal tract infections and, in some cases, even cancer. Because of these disease similarities, an accurate diagnosis is critical, Dr. Swaroop says.

There is no cure for IBS, and thus, treatment is directed at attempting to relieve symptoms. Treatments may include dietary modification, medications and psychosocial interventions.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for digestive and liver diseases.

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month.

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