IBS (aka. Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder.
Frustratingly, IBS shares many common symptoms with more serious diseases. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, irregular bowel habits, excess wind and nausea (just to name a few!).
Despite what Dr. Google advises, there are currently no definitive tests available to adequately diagnose IBS, other than a process of eliminating other conditions.
As such, there is a high potential for misdiagnosis – therefore you shouldn’t just assume gut-related symptoms are IBS related! For example, did you know that there is a 16% chance Endometriosis will be misdiagnosed for IBS and a 5% chance for Coeliac Disease?
A holistic and team approach is needed!
Life is too short to be ‘putting’ up with uncomfortable gut-symptoms, or saying no to dinner out with friends just because you’re anxious about the location of the nearest bathroom at the venue (and on the way there). Starting to investigate your gut-troubles can seem like an overwhelming process. IBS-related symptoms can overlap and potentially mask other conditions, that is why help from your general practitioner and dietitian, can help you to identify the true cause of your symptoms.
Differential Diagnosis – What else could it be?
An incorrect diagnosis of IBS can further complicate any underlying condition(s). But what else could it be?
- Coeliac Disease.While less common than IBS, misdiagnosis of Coeliac Disease can result in significant damage to the small intestine and increased risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis). While less common than IBS, misdiagnosis of IBD can lead to structural damage along the bowel wall, resulting from chronic inflammation.
- Endometriosis and Pelvic Floor Disorders. Research suggests that women with Endometriosis and Pelvic Floor Disorders are 3.5 times more likely to have received a diagnosis of IBS. Confirming the close relationship and potential risk of misdiagnosis.
- Microscopic Colitis. Often mistaken with diarrhoea-predominant IBS, misdiagnosis of microscopic colitis can result in chronic inflammation.
- Intestinal Cancers.
- Diverticular Disease.
A process of elimination – exclusionary tests
Generally speaking, when you begin to investigate the cause of your gut-troubles you will undergo a few tests. Considering there are no definitive tests to diagnose IBS, investigations will systematically begin to eliminate other conditions. You may be asked to do a blood test (eliminate: Coeliac Disease); stool test (eliminate: parasites, bowel cancer) or a colonoscopy/endoscopy (eliminate: IBD, Diverticular Disease, Coeliac Disease).
You will also most definitely be asked to journal your food intake and symptoms for a week from your dietitian. Identifying the cause of your symptoms may take some time, so expect this process to take a couple of weeks to months.
Interested to know why? Watch out for Part two of this gut series to find out more about troubleshooting gut symptoms with your food intake.
Looking for help with your gut issues? Tired of feeling uncomfortable in everyday life? Over feeling restricted in what you can do and where you can go?
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