Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a significant medical issue in Australia with around one in five people suffering from the condition at one time in their lives. When IBS strikes, the large intestine is affected, and this can result in bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain. Unfortunately, because the exact cause of IBS is not known (although food, stress and allergies are thought to play a significant role), it can be hard to treat; more often than not, people will manage the symptoms through a change of diet, exercise and mindfulness techniques.

There are times, however, when IBS needs to be taken more seriously and when you should seek the advice of a doctor immediately.

IBS and bleeding

If you experience rectal bleeding or bloody diarrhoea alongside IBS, there is a chance you may actually be experiencing Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), which is a separate condition. There are two forms of IBD: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which are both characterised by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. If your doctor suspects IBD, a colonoscopy at a medical clinic will be necessary. There are different medications that can be prescribed to help with IBD, such as steroids and different anti-inflammatories.

IBS and weight loss

Some people do experience weight loss alongside IBS because when they feel so bloated and when they have cramps they just don't eat so much. This is to be expected, but if you experience weight loss that seems unusually extreme to you, it is definitely time to see the doctor. When the symptoms of IBS collide with weight loss, there is a chance that what the patient is actually experiencing is gastrointestinal cancer. Of course, it is extremely important to have that checked out sooner rather than later.

IBS and muscle pain

Muscle pain is not a natural symptom of IBS, and this means that your cramping and bloating could be connected to something else. In fact, the connection is most likely fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is something that causes widespread pain over the body, although, like IBS, the causes are unknown. What is clear is that IBS and fibromyalgia often strike together; seeing a doctor is wise so that you can ease the symptoms of both these conditions hitting you at once.

If you regularly have IBS and you notice changes in extremity or regularity of the condition, it's wise to visit your local GP for a check-up.