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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.

Stomach ache
Coeliac disease symptoms include abdominal pain, as well as loose stools, bloating and excessive wind.

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 for more information.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.