How is IBS Diagnosed?


IBS is diagnosed based on symptoms. Doctors call it a functional disorder—the digestive tract looks normal but doesn’t function as it should. Digestive disorders other than IBS can cause some of the same symptoms, so your provider may order certain tests to rule them out. Depending on your symptoms, tests for IBS may include:

  • Physical examination, as well as detailed questions about your symptoms and health history
  • Basic blood tests to assess blood count, kidney and liver function, general inflammation, thyroid function, and digestive conditions like celiac disease
  • Examination of the stool to check for blood, bacteria, parasites, or inflammation
  • Colonoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube with a camera to examine the inside of the large intestine (colon). In a person with IBS, the colon should look normal.
  • Upper endoscopy involves a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end to examine the inside of the esophagus and stomach. In a person with IBS, these parts of the digestive tract should look normal.
  • X-rays, ultrasound, and other imaging tests of the abdomen to check for other causes of belly pain
  • Breath tests to detect bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, which can cause symptoms like those of IBS
  • Specific motility tests to determine how muscles contract in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract and whether they are moving food through properly

How is IBS Treated?


IBS has no cure, but effective treatments for IBS pain and other symptoms are available. With your doctor and a registered dietitian, you can find a strategy to treat and manage IBS and relieve your individual symptoms. Treatment for IBS in children is similar to treatment for adults, but depends on the child’s age, overall health, specific symptoms, and ability to tolerate therapies.

Dietary changes

A dietitian will work with you one-on-one to tailor a diet that works best for your symptoms and ensures that you get balanced nutrition. You can learn how to manage IBS with dietary changes including:

  • Keep a food diary to identify foods that make your IBS worse, then avoid these trigger foods
  • Eat small meals frequently rather than a few big meals during the day
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water a day
  • Increase or decrease fiber, depending on your symptoms
  • Avoid fatty or rich foods
  • Reduce milk, cheese, and other dairy products
  • Avoid alcohol and carbonated drinks
  • Reduce caffeine from coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda
  • Try the low FODMAP diet

Your doctor may recommend laxatives to treat IBS constipation, anti-diarrheal medications to treat diarrhea, and anti-spasmodic drugs to help control spasms and pain in the colon. Low doses of certain antidepressants can also reduce pain in some people. The Food and Drug Administration now approves several medications for IBS with constipation and diarrhea. Your doctor can explain how they work and help you choose which medication might be helpful for you.

Lifestyle changes

Many people with IBS find that activities aimed at lowering stress—such as yoga, exercise, and counseling—contribute to reducing their IBS symptoms. Exercise can help the bowel function better while also reducing stress. NewYork-Presbyterian offers stress management and lifestyle optimization services through our Integrative Health and Wellbeing Program. Our therapies can help to promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and relieve your symptoms.



You can develop IBS at any age, including later in life. Most commonly, IBS is diagnosed before the age of 50.

There is no cure for IBS, but a small proportion of people with IBS get better over time. People whose IBS started after food poisoning or an infection in the digestive system are more likely to get better.

Some people may feel better if they avoid foods that can cause gas, including milk and dairy products, fried and fatty foods, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, and caffeinated drinks like coffee. You should speak with a doctor or dietitian before making significant.

IBS feels like abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or both.

IBS must be diagnosed by a doctor. Other digestive conditions have similar symptoms. Your doctor can determine if your symptoms are from IBS or something else.

For most people, IBS does not go away completely. By managing symptoms, it’s possible to have fewer and less frequent flare-ups.

A flare-up of IBS can last a day or two or go on for weeks or months.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for IBS Treatment

If you have symptoms of IBS, schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor or digestive disease specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian. Our providers are experts on IBS symptoms and how to manage IBS. Knowing your individual symptoms of IBS is important for getting the most effective treatment.