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Do I Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome...or Just an Upset Stomach?

Irritable Bowel Syndrom vs. Upset StomachCramping, bloating, nausea, diarrhea — stomach problems are never fun. While a simple upset stomach won’t last forever, a condition called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be ongoing. Knowing which one is cramping your style is key to getting the right treatment.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition in the large intestine that causes significant discomfort, including pain, diarrhea and constipation.

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

While there is no single cause for IBS, health experts believe there are many possible reasons, including:

  • Stressful events, especially early on in life
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
  • Bacterial infections in the digestive tract
  • Food intolerances or sensitivities
  • Genetics

How Common is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome affects up to 15% of the world population — and roughly twice as many women as men. 

Upset Stomach Vs. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS symptoms are often more severe or come back more often, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping and bloating
  • Incomplete bowel movement
  • Changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation) 
  • Whitish mucus in stool 
  • Beverages, including alcohol, coffee, or carbonation
  • Diet, including spicy, fatty, or greasy foods 
  • Eating too much or too fast
  • Stress
  • Medications, such as antibiotics 

In women, symptoms may align with monthly menstrual cycles. An upset stomach is a more generalized pain that is temporary and may be caused by:

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome

While treatment for an upset stomach may include fluids, antacids, rest, and avoiding triggers, tackling IBS is a little more involved, including: 

  • Eating more fiber and avoiding gluten
  • Increasing exercise
  • Taking medications for diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain
  • Using probiotics to encourage good bacteria for digestion
  • Starting relaxation training to ease muscles and reduce stress

You Don't Need to Suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Do you think you might be experiencing symptoms caused by irritable bowel syndrome? Call 800-789-PENN or find a doctor in the Gastroenterology Department at Chester County Hospital.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Related Information from Chester County Hospital

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