One approach to coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is behavioral therapy. Why? Stress and anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms. Behavioral therapy can help you cope with these feelings and hopefully reduce some IBS symptoms. It's not known what causes pressure and worry to trigger stomach pain, discomfort, diarrhea, or constipation. But learning how to effectively manage emotional reactions seems to help prevent or ease suffering.
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No matter how embarrassing, it is important to talk with your doctor openly and honestly about your symptoms. You'll need to tell your doctor about stomachaches, bloating, and any change in the appearance and frequency of bowel movements.
Diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and constipation can be particularly misleading symptoms, since they are signs of various ailments. Plus, the physical exam may point to other disorders. For instance, weight loss, ulcers, and arthritis may point to inflammatory bowel disease instead of IBS.
To further exclude other illnesses, doctors may order blood and stool tests. They may ask for a breath test or ask you to temporarily eliminate dairy products from your diet to determine whether you're lactose intolerant.
They may also conduct a flexible sigmoidoscopy, in which a flexible, finger-sized tube with a camera is placed inside the rectum to examine the lower part of the colon.
The entire colon and the rectum may also be analyzed with a colonoscopy, a long flexible, finger-sized tube with a camera placed inside the rectum.
IBS Diagnostic Criteria
Not all doctors agree that the best way to diagnose IBS is through the exclusion of other diseases. Some researchers suggest a more "positive approach" using guidelines called the Rome III criteria.