Is it IBS or an intolerance?

Dr Mark Porter / 20 January 2017

Dr Porter advises a reader whose upset tummy is not responding to IBS treatment.



Q: Over the last 9 months I have developed an upset tummy and need to go to the loo four or five times a day. My GP referred me for a colonoscopy but everything was normal and he is now trying treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Unfortunately this isn’t helping and I am wondering if it could be some type of intolerance.

A: IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion and although by far the most common cause of the symptoms you describe, it’s vital to rule out other problems too. I am glad to hear that your colonoscopy was normal and there isn’t much I can add from here other than to highlight one other condition that is often missed – coeliac disease.

Although much rarer than IBS, it still affects around 1 in 100 people in the UK. It is an auto-immune disease associated with gluten, a component of wheat, barley and rye. Typical symptoms include loose stools (which may be difficult to flush away), bloating, excessive wind and abdominal pain. Unexplained fatigue and anaemia are also common complaints too.

Your GP can do a simple blood test to screen for the condition but a definitive diagnosis will require referral to a specialist. Visit www.coeliac.org.uk for more information.

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