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Looking Beyond an IBS Diagnosis

Updated: Mar 9

I hear this story time and time again from my clients, and have even experienced it myself:

You suffer from daily digestive issues that are very disruptive to your life, and nothing you do seems to make it better. So, you go to your doctor, who then runs some tests (if you're lucky), all of which come back "normal". the doc then calls to tell you that there's nothing wrong, "it's just IBS". 

Sound familiar? 

In this blog, I will discuss why it's important to keep looking for answers beyond an IBS diagnosis.


In my experience working with people who have just received an IBS diagnosis, very few know what it actually means. IBS is technically defined by the Rome IV criteria, established for research purposes but also often used in clinical practice:

Recurrent abdominal pain, on average, at least 1 day per week in the last 3 months, associated with 2 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 Criteria fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months before diagnosis

Considering how broad and nonspecific the criteria is, it’s no surprise that in Western countries, including New Zealand and Australia, approximately 10% of the general population fulfills the Rome IV criteria for IBS.

Certain red flag symptoms such as gastrointestinal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, and age were selected to be used as referral guidelines for further medical testing (e.g. colonoscopy) to rule out colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Meaning everything else was left on the table and lumped into IBS.