Health

3 IBS symptoms you may mistake for period problems

Bloating, pain, changes in bowel movement and tiredness are what a lot of women experience when they have their period. But did you know some of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) often mimics typical period problems and complaints?

There is no doubt IBS and common period problems are very similar indeed. And often IBS is often mistaken for and diagnosed as period pain.

So how do you tell them apart?

vagina period

The signs and symptoms of IBS

1 in 5 Australians will suffer from IBS during their lifetime, with women more prone to the condition than men.

Diagnosing IBS in women can be tough. It’s made tougher by the fact that flare-ups tend to occur during menstruation according to Irritable Bowel Syndrome Support.

While IBS does not lead to serious disease; undiagnosed and unmanaged IBS can lead to a collection of uncomfortable symptoms and complaints which can severely affect the quality of ones life.

Head of the IBS Network, Alison Reid says, “Because everyone’s IBS symptoms are individual to them it can be easy for people to dismiss them as something else, typically period pain or flatulence. IBS is a serious and debilitating condition affecting both men and women.”

Here are 3 common IBS symptoms women often confuse for period problems

1. Pain

Period pain is extremely common. Typical period pain lasts for 2-3 days (when it lasts longer than 2-3 days and makes it difficult to resume normal daily activities, this not considered typical and therefore medical advice is recommended). Period pain can include cramping and heaviness in the pelvic area. It can also include pain in the lower back and stomach.

You can read more about period pain and what your body is trying to tell you about your health here.

The thing is IBS can also cause pain in these areas and pain is considered the most common symptom of IBS.

BUPA Australia says, “The pain ranges from mild to severe, and may be made better by opening the bowels or passing wind. It is often made worse by eating.” 

This pain is often felt during the evening.

2. Changes in bowel

Many of us are well aware that during THAT time of the month, our poo can be a little weird. You may poop more, you may poop less or you may even notice your poop is a little runny.  That’s because of prostaglandins which our body releases during the first couple of days of our period. These trigger our uteruses to contract (cramps) and sometimes our bowels (weird poops).

While changes in bowel movements are common during period time, changes in bowel movement are also a major symptom of IBS. IBS sufferers often complain of constipation or diarrhoea (sometimes even both).

“Your faeces may vary in consistency from hard and pellet-like to loose and watery. Alternatively, you may just pass small amounts of mucus. Your bowel movements may alternate between constipation and diarrhoea,” BUPA states.

3. Tiredness

Fatigue is a common symptom of period time and of IBS. You see, the digestive system is a major site for the absorption of food and if this isn’t working properly, we are unable to get the nutrients we need and therefore energy wanes.

You can see from the above why IBS and period pain can often be mistaken for one another. The thing is, regardless of whether you think you are suffering from period pain or say IBS pain – it’s best to chat with your doctor.

If these are reoccurring issues for you, we suggest keeping a diary and writing down when such symptoms occur, how long for, what have you eaten and where you are at in your cycle. That way you can help your healthcare practitioner determine if you are suffering from period problems or IBS.

As a general rule don’t be hasty to dismiss IBS symptoms as that time of month women’s troubles.

Other common symptoms of IBS

Other signs and symptoms of IBS often include:

  • Excess wind
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Backache
  • Tiredness
  • Bladder problems

If you are suffering from IBS, see these foods to reduce inflammation and for more health news check out all our Healthy Mummy health stories here.

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written by:

Katie Fowler

Katie is a yoga loving writer from Sydney's northern beaches. With a flair for healthy baking you can find her scouring Instagram for the latest take on raw brownies and trolling Pinterest for interior design inspiration!