What is Involved in an IBS Test?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2018
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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is generally considered a diagnosis of exclusion. That means that all other potential causes for symptoms must be ruled out before a diagnosis of IBS can be made. The IBS test may include blood work, stool testing, and a discussion with a physician about all symptoms and any medications being taken or foods being consumed. If all tests come back as negative for all known conditions, a diagnosis of IBS may be made.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition which causes painful symptoms like gas, bloating, nausea, heartburn, stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea. The cause of pain and digestive upset is not known, although it may be caused by may be related to severe stress, hormonal changes, and dietary habits.

There are certain drugs which can cause symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome, so during the IBS test, patients may have to undergo a routine drug screening. This can include both recreational and prescription drugs, so any other medical conditions being treated should be mentioned up front. Pathogens can also cause IBS symptoms, so stools may be tested for excess bacteria or viruses.


Certain other digestive conditions can cause symptoms related to IBS as well. Lactose intolerance, for example, often mimics irritable bowel syndrome, but symptoms only present themselves after dairy is consumed. Patients may be asked to keep a food diary for one or two weeks as part of their IBS test in order to determine if there are certain food triggers for symptoms. Occasionally, food allergies other than lactose intolerance could also be to blame.

The IBS test will be complete once all tests have come back normal. At that time, the only reasonable diagnosis to make is one of irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is considered a benign syndrome because it does not generally worsen over time or escalate into more serious health conditions. Symptoms may become more severe during times of stress or hormonal fluctuation, but it has not been determined if these things are part of the cause of IBS or are merely an exacerbation for it. Physicians are not sure about the underlying causes of irritable bowel syndrome, and there is no cure.

Common treatments for irritable bowel syndrome include dietary and lifestyle changes. Trigger foods should be avoided and patients should be sure to get plenty of exercise to keep digestion run more smoothly. Probiotics are another treatment option. They contain naturally occurring gut flora, or “good bacteria,” to help maintain regularity. In some cases, medications may be needed to help alleviate symptoms.



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