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IBS - abdominal pain predominant

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is incredibly common with numbers suggesting it is present in up to 2 in 10 people. Symptoms tend to start when people are in their twenties or thirties, and it is usually possible to make a diagnosis with your doctor based on symptoms rather than endless tests and consultations.

Doctor’s advice

Typical symptoms

IBS can consist mainly of mild symptoms or flare up and cause fairly debilitating symptoms. Fortunately, IBS does not cause any serious health implications, but it can have an impact on people’s day-to-day lives. The predominant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome vary from person to person. Some struggle with constipation, others with diarrhea, and for some pain and bloating, with others varying between episodes of a combination of these.

If the main or most common symptom you suffer from is abdominal pain then this is known as abdominal pain predominant IBS, where people suffer from pain that tends to come and go, which some people describe as spasmodic. It can occur anywhere in the stomach area and can often improve after passing stool or gas. The severity of the pain varies between people and also between episodes of pain. Around one-third of people with IBS suffer from abdominal pain predominant IBS.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Treatment options for abdominal-pain predominant IBS are aimed at relieving the individual or particular combinations of symptoms.

Soothing IBS abdominal pain due to cramps or bloating

Gas-X chewable tablets with simethicone are an effective treatment to help pass trapped gas and pressure out of the body. They are fairly safe to take and do not generally interact with other medicines.

More gentle natural alternatives that people find effective for settling the stomach include peppermint tea or a digestive, carminative homemade tea with a combination of some freshly grated ginger and peppermint or spearmint leaves in freshly boiled water.

If you are on the go, then there are also more concentrated peppermint oil capsule preparations such as Colpermin, which are in a slow-release form, or other brands such as IBgard. They are all effective in reducing abdominal cramps and bloating.

Combination symptoms

If you have a combination of symptoms such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea or pain caused by trapped gas or bloating associated with diarrhea, then a combination product such as Imodium Multi-Symptom Relief caplet might be ideal. The active ingredients include loperamide 2 mg to reduce the frequency of loose motions and simethicone 125 mg to relieve the painful bloating and trapped gas for short-term use.

When should I see my doctor?

You should book a routine doctor’s appointment if you are experiencing symptoms of IBS. This is so that the doctor can help rule out any other causes of your symptoms and confirm IBS as the likely cause. There is no specific test for IBS and so it is what is called a diagnosis of exclusion, where other conditions are ruled out so that IBS can then be confirmed as the diagnosis. If you have severe pain that isn’t subsiding, unexplained weight loss, a fever, feeling generally unwell or any blood in your stools you should book an urgent visit with your doctor.

What will my doctor do?

The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your medical history, any relevant family medical history, and what medications you are currently taking. They will have a feel of your abdomen, check your temperature, and potentially do other tests such as a blood test or a stool sample.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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