What Tests Can You Get For IBS?

One in ten of us Brits now has a diagnosis of IBS, and IBS symptoms are now one of the most common reasons for a doctor’s visit in the UK. Almost everybody has heard of IBS, but what is it and how do you test for it? Read on to find out.

How to test for IBS in the UK

There’s no test or exam for IBS in the UK. In fact, there’s no test or exam for IBS anywhere. IBS stands for ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome’, and a syndrome is a collection of symptoms. Nobody knows for sure why people get those symptoms, although evidence tells us now that there are many possible reasons.

A professional will diagnose you with IBS based on something called the ‘Rome IV Criteria’. So, if you want to know if you have IBS, here’s a quick quiz:

Rome IV quiz

Do you have recurrent abdominal pain, on average, at least one day a week in the last three months, associated with two or more of the following criteria:

  • Related to defecation
  • Associated with a change in frequency of stool
  • Associated with a change in form (appearance) of stool?

These symptoms must have started at least six months before diagnosis. If you’ve ticked all the boxes, this indicates you could have IBS.

How do professionals test for IBS?

Because there’s no test for IBS, a doctor will diagnose it based on the Rome IV criteria above. If you have the symptoms, you have IBS: it’s as simple as that.

However, the reasons why you have IBS are far from simple. To get rid of your IBS, you have to find out why you got those symptoms in the first place.

Discover the reasons for your IBS symptoms.

View our gut health tests

How to test for IBS at home

While you can’t test for IBS at home—or anywhere else—you can test to find the reasons why you might have IBS symptoms like diarrhoea, bloating or constipation, from the comfort of your own home. Find out how the Healthpath service works and what to expect from testing.

Research on the symptoms of IBS, their causes and their possible cures has rocketed over the last few years. For instance, we now know that our microbiome (the communities of microbes that live in our guts) has a massive impact on not only the health of our gut, but of our whole body, and even our mind.

Find your root cause with a Gut Health Test

To find out why you have IBS, you’ll need to do some digging. There are an almost infinite number of reasons why you could be suffering with gut symptoms, but here are some of the most common:

Dysbiosis (an imbalance of the communities of microbes in your gut).

If you’ve got IBS, you’re much more likely to have decreased levels of two friendly bacteria called Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, and higher numbers of potentially harmful types, like E. coli and Clostridia (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

All our Gut Health Tests assess your levels of all these bacteria—and many more besides—on top of a whole host of other markers of gut health. Check out our Gut Health Tests now.

SIBO

SIBO is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, which should have relatively low levels of bacteria. Read more about SIBO on our blog SIBO symptoms: what they mean and what to do next.

Leaky gut

Leaky gut happens when undigested protein molecules and toxins pass through the lining of your gut. There’s a lot of research now that links leaky gut to IBS symptoms (Source: PUBMED NCBI). Find out more about leaky gut, and how you can test for it.

Gut infection

Just one bout of food poisoning raises the chance you’ll get IBS in the future (Source: NCBI). Parasites like Blastocystis hominis and Giardia are also linked to IBS symptoms (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Food sensitivity

A recent research review looked over 73 studies to investigate whether food sensitivities could be responsible for IBS symptoms, and concluded that food intolerances should be considered as a possible reason for IBS (Source: NCBI). Find out if you could be sensitive to up to 120 different foods with a food sensitivity test.

Even if you don’t have the pain mentioned in the Rome IV criteria, doctors often diagnose people with IBS if they’ve had diarrhoea and/or constipation for longer than a few weeks.

If you want to explore the possible root causes of your IBS symptoms, our Gut Health Tests give you a window into what’s going on in your gut. Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll find out:

Your microbiome’s health

Your stool consistency, pH levels, microbe diversity, enterotype, and dysbiosis index.

Your microbes

Your levels of bacteria, yeasts (including candida), moulds, parasites, worms, H. pylori and pathogenic bacteria

Advanced biomarkers

Your digestive function, immune system, and levels of inflammation.

(Bonus) Leaky gut

Your chance of intestinal permeability (leaky gut).

(Bonus) Worms and eggs

Identify worms (helminths): especially useful after bouts of food poisoning.

How does a blood test show IBS?

A blood test can’t show IBS. There are some blood tests that a doctor might use to rule out other gut conditions that have the same symptoms as IBS, like coeliac disease (an allergy to the gluten in wheat) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (Source: NHS), although you can also test for these conditions through stool.

IBS is often called ‘a diagnosis of exclusion.’ That means that a doctor will usually want to rule out more serious conditions with tests, before diagnosing you with IBS (Source: PUBMED NCBI)

List of IBS symptoms

The main symptoms of IBS are constipation and diarrhoea. However, there are many other symptoms that often accompany IBS. Often, when people address the root cause of their IBS symptoms, they find that their other symptoms improve too.

Here are some examples of conditions associated with IBS:

Anxiety (Source: NCBI).

Depression (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Eczema (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Rosacea (Source: PUBMED NCBI)

Psoriasis (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Dermatitis (Source: NCBI).

Heart disease (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Alzheimer’s disease (Source: NCBI).

Parkinson’s disease (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Autoimmune diseases (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Migraines (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Allergies (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Asthma (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Cancer (Source: NCBI).

Chronic fatigue syndrome (Source: NCBI).

Obesity (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Type 2 diabetes (Source: PUBMED NCBI).

Osteoarthritis (Source: NCBI).

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (Source: NCBI).

Speak to an expert. Free gut health consultation.

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IBS is a symptom, not a diagnosis

Treating IBS symptoms without addressing the underlying cause is like putting buckets underneath the holes in your roof to catch the water. You may not make a mess on the floor, but the holes in the roof are still there.

Over time, the leaky roof will cause other problems, like rot, or mould. Fixing the roof is the only solution. When it comes to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, finding the root cause and addressing it is fixing the roof. Testing can help.

Gut health testing with Healthpath is simple. As well as the results, you’ll get an interpretation by one of our Functional Medicine Practitioners or Registered Nutritional Therapists, and a food, supplement and lifestyle plan to tackle your gut issues. If you want one-to-one, personal guidance, why not book a consultation with one of our team?

Conclusion

IBS is a collection of symptoms. If you’ve had constipation or diarrhoea for a while, you’ve got IBS.

While there’s no test for IBS, there are tests to help you find out why you have IBS symptoms. Finding your root cause is the first step to living without your IBS symptoms for good.

Discover the reasons for your IBS symptoms.

View our gut health tests

Author

Alexandra Falconer MA (Dist) DipCNM mBANT is a Registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in IBS and related conditions. A graduate of Brighton’s College of Naturopathic Medicine, she is committed to fighting the root causes of chronic illness and bringing functional medicine to everyone who needs it.

 

Before her natural health career, Alex was a journalist and copywriter. She continues to write for magazines and media agencies, and now combines her two great passions—writing and health—by creating content that empowers people to claim their right to a healthy body and mind.

 

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