Skip to Content

Symptom Checker

Step 4: Read and complete the decision guide to learn more about your symptoms.


Some of the symptoms that you have reported are suggestive for "irritable bowel syndrome." Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as "IBS," "spastic colon," or "mucous colitis," is discomfort from the lower bowel that occurs during normal digestion. It is a common problem, causing symptoms in more than ten percent of the population.

About irritable bowel syndrome

All people have nerve endings in their intestinal tracts. These nerves sense stretching of the small intestine and colon and control their periodic contractions (known as peristalsis) that propel food along the digestive tract. In the case of an irritable bowel, the nerves within the bowel are unusually sensitive. They can react in a disorderly or exaggerated way to normal stretching from food residue that is passing through the intestines. Your nerves may cause your colon to be unusually active or unusually still. Normal digestion activity can therefore result in symptoms.

The most typical symptoms from an irritable bowel include

  • pain in the mid-abdomen or lower abdomen

  • diarrhea, constipation, or episodes of both

  • mucous that is passed with bowel movements

  • fullness (bloating) in the abdomen

  • loose or frequent stools during pain episodes

  • relief of pain following a bowel movement

  • a feeling that you can't empty your rectum completely.

Irritable bowel symptoms can be managed with adjustments in your diet and can be aided with medicines that reduce nerve sensitivity or spasm in the bowel.

Another condition that might explain your diarrhea is celiac sprue. Celiac sprue is impaired digestion that results when grains in the diet provoke inflammation in the bowel. Celiac sprue only results in individuals who have a sensitivity to gluten (a protein found in wheat, oats, barley, rye, and many food additives). This sensitivity results in an autoimmune reaction (an immune system attack) after gluten-containing foods are consumed. Blood tests are available to check for antibodies that can diagnose gluten sensitivity.

For many people, symptoms of an irritable bowel are provoked by lactose intolerance, even when sensitivity to milk products is not obvious. It may be useful for you to try a lactose-free diet to see if your symptoms improve.


Please provide feedback to help us improve the Symptom Checker.

Disclaimer: This content should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a call or visit to a health professional. Use of this content is subject to specific Terms of Use & Medical Disclaimers.