Healthy Lifestyle

Does Your Poop Look Like This? You Could Have IBS

Published: April 1, 2022

Do you suffer from chronic gastrointestinal pain or cramping? Do you have frequent diarrhea, constipation, urgency to go or all of the above? You may have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that affects up to 15% of Americans and tends to be more common in women than in men.

If you’re one of the millions of people affected, the chains that bind you can be debilitating.

You may avoid going places where restrooms aren’t easily accessible. You may be forced to cancel plans or decline invitations due to sudden onset symptoms. And you may steer clear of the foods and drinks you love in order to prevent your chronic bowel problems from worsening.

Many people delay seeking care out of embarrassment, the assumption that it’s all in their heads or the hope that their issues will eventually resolve. So, how do you know when it’s time to call your provider? Recognize the symptoms of IBS – and yes, take a closer look at your poop.

IBS Types and Symptoms 

There are three types of IBS, which include:

  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C) is usually marked by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, infrequent bowel movements and hard stools.
  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) usually comes with abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, urgency to go, frequent bowel movements and loose, watery stools.
  • IBS with mixed bowel movements (IBS-M) is accompanied by constipation and diarrhea.

The Bristol Stool Chart

As noted above, your bowel movements can help determine what type of IBS you might have. The Bristol Stool Chart can be a helpful resource in gauging whether the shape and texture of your poop is considered normal.

Bristol Stool Chart

Out of the seven types of stools listed, you’ll see five of them are red – or abnormal – and signify diarrhea or constipation. The standard rule of thumb is: If you experience one of these five types three or more times a month for three consecutive months – and you’re suffering from the other symptoms noted above – it may be time to talk to your provider to determine whether you really are struggling with IBS or something more serious.

It’s important to note that aside from shape and texture, the presence of white or cloudy mucus in your stool may also point to IBS.  But here’s what’s not associated with IBS:

  • Blood in your stool
  • IBS-like symptoms accompanied by a fever
  • IBS-like symptoms accompanied by dramatic weight loss

If you experience any of these more serious symptoms, contact your provider immediately.

Finding Comfort and Peace of Mind

While IBS does not cause damage to your intestines or lead to serious disease – like cancer – it’s important that you reach out to a trusted provider with any recurring symptoms that are painful or cause you anxiety. No one deserves to live in discomfort. And an accurate diagnosis can help lead you toward greater comfort and peace of mind.

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About the Author

Dr. Jared Pehrson, a family medicine physician at Methodist Physicians Clinic, is passionate about preventative care.

“When I was a kid, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer,” he said. “That’s always been a main focus of mine, trying to catch things and prevent things before they happen. Colon cancer is a great example of that, where you can prevent most cases just by early screening.”

Learn more about Dr. Pehrson.

See more articles from Jared Pehrson, MD
Jared Pehrson, MD