Newbie needing advice on IBS testing

Hi all,

I am a newbie here and just signed up as I'm in need of advice. I am 28 and have suspected IBS. I suffer from bouts of alternating constipation and diarrhea (sometimes together) which tends to be a lot worse when I have anxiety attacks. I can go for days without having a bowel movement and then be dashing to the loo several times a day with diarrhea and yet still feel constipated. I have not had any bleeding (other than very rarely from piles) and I don't suffer from pain or cramps. It's just the inconsistency with my bowel movements that is causing me concern.

I have in the past spoken to my GP who diagnosed this as IBS without running any tests. She just spoke about my symptoms with me and felt my stomach but that's it. I am now finding my symptoms seem to crop up more frequently and am considering getting a second opinion. My understanding was that IBS can only really be diagnosed once other conditions have been tested for and ruled out? Am I right in thinking that?

To be honest I think a lot of my anxieties (which definitely contribute to my condition) come from the worry that I am suffering from something serious like bowel cancer or Crohns. If I were to explain this to a GP would they offer me more tests or is that (at my age) not routine practice? I am not currently on any medication and since I can go for months without experiencing any symptoms I am not too eager to be put on any medication at present. But I just want a definite diagnosis so I can stop worrying and start thinking about how to manage with IBS attacks when they do happen. Any advice welcome.

8 Replies

  • I have IBS d. One thing a can say for certain is that any kind if stress or anxiety makes matters much worse. I am a lot older than you (58) and managed to get a sigmoidoscopy done in an emergency as I had worked myself up into a state. Once I found out all was well I have managed to slowly calm myself down and I now control the diarrhoea with Imodium.

    I know this doesn't help you but I comment to underline the power of mind over body. I have not found a lot of help anywhere ,not being ill and having what they call a functional disorder the NHS are not very sympathetic. I am thinking about consulting a dietician as I have identified trigger foods. Have you thought about this? I also wondered about hypnotherapy - but wonder if that would work!

  • Thank you for your reply Vallie, it is so good to speak to others who know what this awful condition is like. I totally agree that the mind/body link is huge here. I never quite realised how much my anxiety could affect my stomach/digestion but now I can almost predict that within a few minutes of getting that panicky, anxious feeling I'll be needing the loo. Of course then I get more anxious because I'm trying to find a toilet and so it works in a vicious cycle. I am 95% sure that this is IBS caused by anxiety but the worry of something more sinister is definitely playing on my mind and making my symptoms worse. I try to reason that as my symptoms come and go and are so closely linked with anxiety it is unlikely to be anything like cancer which I presume is more constant, but i'm no doctor so it's hard to know.

    I haven't noticed trigger foods as such, although my diet in general could be better and I am trying to improve my fiber intake and cut out takeaways and junk. Not even thought about hypnotherapy although something along those lines could be useful in managing my anxiety - it sometimes crops up for no reason at all. I can be sat watching TV and suddenly i'll get that panicky feeling and soon after my stomach will start playing up. I try to control it, take deep breaths and tell myself I have no reason to feel anxious but it's hard to control it and as I said, if i'm out of the house the worry of getting to a toilet only makes it worse.

    I just don't want to be fobbed off by a GP but i don't know how to approach the issue. I had a colonoscopy about 5 years ago for something unrelated and it was awful. I don't want to repeat that experience unless I really have to. But at the same time i'm sick of worrying myself silly.

  • Welcome to the forum. I'm sorry to hear that you're unwell, but you've come to a good place.

    You're absolutely right that there should be plenty more tests done before settling on IBS as a diagnosis. Unfortunately if your GP is anything like mine, they just don't understand. I'd push for a referral to a GI doctor who should be more useful. I went through a battery of blood, breath, stool and urine tests, as well as an ultrasound, endoscopy and colonoscopy before my GI settled on IBS. Unfortunately you might have to get insistent - in Canada the wait-list was years but I had to keep pushing to get my case recognized as urgent (I'm IBS-D).

    I also find this site very helpful for specifics regarding IBS:

    I'm a firm believer that stress exacerbates my symptoms - seems to be the case for you as well. I took a couple of yoga classes (the relaxing, slow meditative kind) and some of the calming 'mindfulness' has helped me talk myself through a bad/urgent spell. Really anything you can add to your arsenal in those situations is helpful. Also if you can manage, think about getting some exercise - it helps keep the mind in check (which then hopefully keeps the bowels in check).

    I'd keep tabs on your diet and your symptoms. You never know what might be affecting you - even if yours is mostly stress based. If you have a smartphone you can get cheap apps which track which food you ate, when, and the whole range of symptoms. There are various diets you can try - it's really worth doing a severe elimination diet to see if you can identify even a handful of your trigger foods. A common one is FODMAPS - it gave me an insight into many (but not all) of my triggers. Other things to consider that could be affecting you is preservatives, caffeine, medications, etc.

    It's totally frustrating and you really have to be your own health advocate with IBS. It's a slow learning process, but hopefully you can get the answers you are looking for from your doctors, and can find a way to manage your symptoms.

  • You mentioned 'at your age' . I would like to point out that this can affect any age. My son is 16 and has suffered for last 2-3 years and I know several other younger ones have posted on here as well.

    You need to go back to your gp and tell him how you feel and ask for blood test scan endoscopy or to be referred to someone who can help.

    My doctors also tried to fob me off with 'oh its Ibs' and no help. But after going back a couple of times they sent him for blood test, which of course comes back negative. Another visit and they did a stool test. Again negative. Yet another visit and sent to see gastroenterologist.

    Now got appointment to have endoscopy and scan.

    Keep at it.

    It definitely seems to be linked to anxiety but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't rule out other things first.

    Hope you get answers you need.

  • Once again thank you for all of your support and advice I am so glad I found this forum. When I mentioned my age I meant that I didn't know if a gp would routinely test me for things such as bowel cancer (which is my biggest fear) as it is rare in my age group. Having read a lot of the other stories on here I can see that I am lucky not to suffer abdominal pain as many others seem too. In fact over the last few days my symptoms have quietened down again but despite not having to dash to the loo I find it goes the other way and I don't go at all which in itself is a concern.

    Because my symptoms are so inconsistent and can range from nothing at all to severe diarrhea I find myself putting off going to the gp as I feel sure they will fob me off with no real answer. I can cope with my symptoms (awful as they are when they do crop up) but the constant worry of something more sinister plays on my mind :(

  • Don't let him put you off, you will only make yourself ill from worrying. Anytime you want to talk were all here for you. Good Luck

  • Hi, in my oppinion you are right you can only diagnoseIBS after everything else has been ruled out. The best and only real test to rule out anything is a colonoscopy Im only saying this because that's what I was told by a gastrologist . If I were you I would go back to see your GP and ask to see a Gastrologist ,if he says your worrying over nothing Stamp your feet a little until you get what you want,this is your right. And if there's one thing I've learned over the years is if you don't look after your own health no one else will. Take care and go back and ask for your rights. Good Luck

  • Hi newbie, at least you have occasional flare ups! If you feel unhappy about your care go back and badger your doctors until you get the support you feel you deserve. I have just begged my doctors surgery management to get 1 doctor to co-ordinate my i.b.s care as I'm fed up been sent from pillar to post! Good luck I feel for you!

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