Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: IBS, Digestive Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Learn how to rule out other conditions that can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the more frustrating diseases to encounter because irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can be very similar to the symptoms of several other conditions. There are, therefore, several conditions that should be ruled out before beginning an irritable bowel syndrome treatment plan.

  • Lactase enzyme deficiency. Milk and milk products contain a milk sugar called lactose. To properly digest this sugar your small intestine must produce an enzyme called lactase. After age 15 many people can no longer produce the enzyme, and ingesting milk products will result in either diarrhea or constipation, which can mistakenly lead to a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Diverticular disease or lower bowel deformities. Diverticula, or pockets, can develop in the colon when there is inadequate roughage in the diet. Feces accumulating in these pockets can result in irritation of the colon, ulceration, and even bleeding—all similar to irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
  • Colon cancer. Cancer should always be ruled out. Poor diet has made colon cancer one of the more common cancers and its symptom picture can mimic that of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics indiscriminately kill off the beneficial bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. Soured milk products and supplements such as acidophilus and lactic acid yeast can re-establish the normal intestinal microflora.
  • Overuse of laxatives. Laxatives stimulate bowel movements by acting as an irritant to the colon. Eventually the colon builds up a tolerance to the irritant and stronger dosages are required to achieve the desired effect. As a result, the more natural stimulation to the colon from dietary roughage isn't strong enough to trigger a bowel movement. Constipation, inflammation, fermentation, gas, diarrhea, and many of the other irritable bowel syndrome symptoms can begin to appear.

More Dr. Williams Advice on Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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