Hey! I’m Jayne. I help people suffering with IBS regain control of their gut and life a normal life again, without restrictive diets or medication - no matter how long they have been struggling. Learn more.
In this post and video I’m going to take you through 5 of the most common tests that your doctor might recommend to help diagnose your gut issues.
Getting a diagnosis of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) can be a long and frustrating journey, so my hope is that I can help understand not only the most common tests used, but how they are used, and how they can help to diagnose IBS.
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If you’re currently struggling with gut issues such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrohea, chances are that you may have come across IBS, also known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome as a possible diagnosis. You may have also received a diagnosis of IBS already.
But either way, if you have severe IBS symptoms, its not uncommon to worry that there is something more serious physically wrong with you than IBS because of the level of pain and discomfort you’re in.
In this case, either you, your doctor, or both of will want to have additional tests carried out to check what’s happening in your gut. So what are these tests? And how are they used to diagnosis IBS? Keep reading to find out!
Now when it comes to IBS, unfortunately there is no set test, so instead IBS is diagnosed based on your symptoms, with the criteria for a positive IBS diagnosis summarised as experiencing abdominal pain which is related to going to the toilet, and a change in frequency and consistency of stools for at least a 3 month period.
This criteria is part of something called the Rome Criteria and at this point in time we are up to Version IV.
But a diagnosis of IBS can also be made based on your symptoms, and by excluding a number of other conditions using diagnostic tests based on your symptoms and personal background.
Now in most cases a diagnosis of IBS can be made without additional tests, but if your symptoms include anemia, bleeding from your bottom or blood in your stool, a fever, significant weight loss, or the sudden onset of symptoms after the age of 40, then testing would usually be indicated.
So let’s go through the 5 tests which your doctor might request and why.
A fairly likely scenario is that your doctor will start with a blood test to check for low iron levels and also inflammatory markers in the body. Now a blood test is fairly low invasive and can help reveal a number of things.
For example, low iron can point to anemia and can also point to internal bleeding which can occur with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, also known as IBD. Raised inflammatory markers in your blood may also signal that you symptoms may be due to an inflammatory disease.
For more on the differences between IBS and IBD, make sure you check out this post here.
Now a stool analysis can check for both blood in your stool (another sign of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and it can also check for signs of infection and parasites.
Your doctor will be looking for different things depending on your own personal symptoms and background, but a stool analysis can help to rule out other gut disorders and it’s also a very low invasive way to get a clearer look at what is going on.
Now a Sigmoidoscopy is a thin flexible instrument that is inserted up into your rectum and is used to take a closer look at the final part of your large intestine, which is called your sigmoid colon. This is the final 40 centimetres or so before it reaches your rectum, which is the final part of your digestive system and connects your large intestine to your anus
So why would you be referred for this test? Well a Sigmoidoscopy is used by your doctor or specialist to rule out a structural or infectious disease, and is also less invasive than a colonoscopy which I’ll cover shortly.
If you are over the age of 40, or have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, your doctor may recommend this test.
Now I get that it sounds a bit ominous, so let me explain what it is and why it’s used.
A barium enema is a test that helps to highlight your large bowel (which includes your colon and rectum) so that it can be clearly seen on an Xray. This is because unlike xrays for other parts of your body, some preliminary preparation is needed to make your digestive tract visible.
During this test a white liquid called barium is passed into your bowel through your bottom, and this test is usually carried out at a hospital radiology department by a radiologist or radiographer.
Now adays, barium enemas aren’t carried out very often, as alternative tests such as a colonoscopy are preferred.
But a barium enema can sometimes be a useful way of finding the cause of problems like blood in your stools or a constant change in your bowel habits.
A colonscopy is a test to check inside of your bowels and as it’s a pretty invasive test it would generally only be recommended if your symptoms were seen as red flags by your doctor, or your personal history warranted further investigation.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, these tests are not generally required for the diagnosis of IBS, but if your doctor does refer you for a colonoscopy, then they are wanting to get more information on what’s going on in the inside!
So what is this test?
During a colonoscopy a long, thin, flexible tube with a small camera inside it is passed into your bottom and up into your bowel.
Now despite its invasive nature , a colonscopy is very helpful, because it can look for a number of things:
Now with all the tests I covered in this post, what your doctor recommends for you is going to be 100% based on your personal situation, so the information I can give to is general in nature and should definitely not be used to diagnose whats happening in your gut.
Now if you have been diagnosed with IBS and you are struggling to get your symptoms under control, then I would encourage you to book in for a free discovery call with me. In this call, we’ll discuss what’s going on with your gut and IBS, and share with you my approach in my Calm Gut Program. We then decide if we are the right fit and the best option for you.
You can find the link to learn more The Calm Gut Program here.
I would also love to invite you to my free facebook group where you get to ask your questions and get advice from myself on your IBS. You can join that group by clicking this link.
And if you found this post helpful, then make sure you don’t miss out on more insights, tips, and strategies by leaving me your email address below.
Remember, it’s time you started living your life on your terms – not your bowels!
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Jayne Corner is a gut directed hypnotherapist and gut health coach helping you get long lasting relief from your IBS symptoms without restrictive diets or medication, even if you've been suffering for decades.
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