Symptoms - Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Common IBS symptoms

The main symptoms of IBS are:

  • stomach pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after doing a poo
  • bloating – your tummy may feel uncomfortably full and swollen
  • diarrhoea – you may have watery poo and sometimes need to poo suddenly
  • constipation – you may strain when pooing and feel like you can't empty your bowels fully

There may be days when your symptoms are better and days when they're worse (flare-ups). They may be triggered by food or drink.

What can trigger IBS symptoms

IBS flare-ups can happen for no obvious reason.

Sometimes they have a trigger like:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • certain foods – such as spicy or fatty food
  • stress and anxiety

Other symptoms of IBS

IBS can also cause:

  • farting (flatulence)
  • passing mucus from your bottom
  • tiredness and a lack of energy
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • backache
  • problems peeing – like needing to pee often, sudden urges to pee, and feeling like you can't fully empty your bladder
  • not always being able to control when you poo (incontinence)

See a GP if you think you might have IBS

They can check for IBS and do some tests to rule out other problems.

Ask for an urgent appointment if you have:

  • lost a lot of weight for no reason
  • bleeding from your bottom or bloody diarrhoea
  • a hard lump or swelling in your tummy
  • shortness of breath, noticeable heartbeats (palpitations) and pale skin

These could be signs of something more serious.

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2017
Next review due: 09/10/2020