You can use at home tests to help your doctor assess your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and help find the source. But there is no singular test to diagnose IBS. Other diagnostic tools are needed.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn’t really a specific disease but rather a collection of symptoms involving your gut and digestive tract. That means you can use certain home blood test kits to help your doctor recognize some kinds of IBS, but you’ll need your doctor to fully assess your symptoms and provide an official IBS diagnosis.

This article covers how IBS is diagnosed and how you can track your symptoms at home, before consulting a doctor to help you diagnose the condition and help you determine what’s the best course of treatment.

You cannot receive an official diagnosis without seeing a healthcare professional.

But you can likely identify your primary IBS symptoms at home.

If you think you have IBS, symptom evaluation is important. A healthcare professional will largely base an IBS diagnosis on your description of your symptoms.

There isn’t a single genetic, blood, or stool test to diagnose IBS, although there are tests a healthcare professional doctor may order to check for or rule out other diseases of the digestive system.

Perhaps the most helpful thing you can do at home to help diagnose IBS is to keep a detailed record of your symptoms. This might include information like:

  • what you ate before experiencing symptoms
  • how often you have symptoms
  • how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms
  • what makes your symptoms worse or better

IBS symptoms often involve one or more of the following:

These symptoms can appear with various digestive problems. IBS is usually only diagnosed when you’ve experienced symptoms at least once a week for 3 months or if your symptoms have lasted 6 months or more.

There are home testing kits that are designed to help you zero in on the cause of digestive problems that could appear in different types of IBS.

You may have different causes for diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Many home test kits use a blood sample taken from your fingertip to check for antibodies that are common to a number of gastrointestinal disorders. This might include markers for gluten sensitivity and different food allergies.

These tests are based on studies that identified antibodies specific to certain forms of IBS. While many forms of these blood tests are only available through a healthcare professional, home test kits can help rule out common causes or triggers of digestive symptoms.

A healthcare professional may recommend additional testing, especially if there’s a concern for other medical issues like:

  • cancers
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • infections

These issues and other digestive system disorders, such as those involving the bowels, often require more extensive imaging and testing of your blood, tissues, or stool.

Be wary about home testing kits

While you can use at-home blood test kits to assess food sensitivity, many medical experts note that at-home food sensitivity tests are not reliable on their own. Instead, they encourage you to consider meeting with a doctor or registered dietitian to identify the cause of your unwanted symptoms.

You can read more here if you’re considering these at-home sensitivity tests.

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The foods a healthcare professional advises you to avoid are typically based on what causes your IBS flare-ups. If a specific food allergy or sensitivity triggers your IBS symptoms, avoiding these foods can help reduce or even resolve your symptoms. If there are multiple foods or food groups involved, complete avoidance might be more challenging.

Some of the most common foods and beverages linked to IBS symptoms that you might need to avoid or limit include:

  • acidic foods like citrus fruit
  • gas-producing foods like legumes and beans
  • dairy
  • certain grains
  • alcohol
  • coffee or tea

If you have gluten sensitivity or are lactose intolerant, you can focus on these food groups. If removing these foods does not help, eating lower fat foods and increasing fiber is generally recommended. Low FODMAP eating patterns are another common suggestion.

FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are considered difficult to digest. The goal of a low FODMAP dietary plan is reducing your consumption of these foods, opting instead for meals that are easier to digest.

If following a low FODMAP eating plan helps your symptoms after a few weeks, you can try slowly reintroducing foods over time to see which ones you can tolerate and potentially add back into your eating plan.

OTC medications can help you manage your IBS symptoms, but they will not completely cure them.

OTC IBS treatment options are designed to provide symptom relief and can include:

  • laxatives or stool softeners for IBS with constipation
  • loperamide and other antidiarrheals for IBS with diarrhea
  • stomach soothers like simethicone and bismuth subsalicylate
  • antacids

If these medications do not help manage your symptoms, a healthcare professional may recommend prescription medications.

Home testing kits for food allergies or intolerance are now widely available. However, a healthcare professional should be the source of an official IBS diagnosis. Their diagnosis is based largely on the symptoms you experience rather than a blood or stool sample.

Involving a healthcare professional is important if you’re experiencing ongoing digestive problems, especially to rule out conditions like cancer that could eventually require more extensive testing and possibly treatment.