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How Diagnostic Testing Can Help Manage the ABCs of IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects approximately 13-20% of Canadians. In fact, Canadians have a 30% lifetime risk of developing IBS according to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. While IBS tends to arise more frequently in women in most Western nations, it can also affect men and children of all ages.

Wondering if you have IBS? Consider the ABCs.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation and/or Diarrhea

These are the primary symptoms associated with IBS; and depending on the severity of the condition they can be debilitating enough to significantly affect a person’s quality of life. While IBS may be a common gastrointestinal disorder, it can be difficult to diagnose without the appropriate testing as there are many factors that can contribute to IBS symptoms such as: diet, exercise, sleep, food intolerances, certain medications, underlying medical conditions, stress and mental health (i.e. anxiety and depression), and many others. In addition, some symptoms may disappear for some time before you experience them again.

If you feel you’re often experiencing these symptoms, you may want to talk about them with your health care provider.

The difference between IBS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBS and IBD have common symptoms that can make a true diagnosis difficult without a colonoscopy. Both conditions commonly present with the same symptoms but they are not the same and the treatments for each condition are very different.

IBS affects the functioning of the large intestine but does not change the bowel tissue. IBS symptoms are commonly controlled through lifestyle, diet, and stress reduction and in more severe cases, medication and counseling.

IBD is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that cause the chronic inflammation of your digestive tract, colon, or rectum. Common types of IBD include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The symptoms of IBD can range from mild to debilitating and even life-threatening so IBD needs to be carefully managed.

With symptoms of these two conditions appearing similar, Fecal Calprotectin (FCAL) testing can provide an accurate diagnosis in many patients with chronic diarrhea without the need of doing invasive diagnostic procedures.

What is an FCAL test?

When a person has inflammation of the bowel, a protein is released that produces calprotectin in the stool. The FCAL test measures the amount of calprotectin present. A high level of calprotectin can indicate IBD, whereas a lower level of calprotectin can indicate IBS. FCAL is an excellent tool to exclude IBD and avoid unnecessary referrals and colonoscopies.

Talk to your doctor to find out if an FCAL test is right for you

Your doctor is the best person to speak to about your risk of developing IBS and/or IBD, and whether an FCAL test should be performed. They may recommend an FCAL test if you experience persistent gastrointestinal symptoms that do not go away or return often.

Having a conversation about gastrointestinal symptoms with your doctor is key to arriving at the most appropriate recommendation based on your unique health care journey.

For further information about the FCAL test, please visit:

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