11 Things to Track in Your IBS or CIC Symptom Journal

Gain a better understanding on your experience with chronic constipation by keeping a record of your symptoms.

A young woman writes in a notebook. Keeping a symptom journal is helpful when managing IBS or CIC.

Patients with many different health conditions are encouraged to keep a symptom journal. If you are managing an ongoing condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC), keeping a daily record of your symptoms and the things that may impact your symptoms can provide useful information for both you and your healthcare provider. A symptom journal can help identify triggers and patterns in your symptoms. It can also help you understand if things like changes to diet, stress reduction, and medications are having an impact on how you feel.

Below is a list of things you should consider recording in your symptom journal.

Your symptoms. Write down any GI symptoms you experienced that day. Be as specific as possible. Make note of the severity of the symptoms, duration, and times the symptoms occurred.

Bowel movements. Make a note anytime you have a bowel movement, including the time of day, the consistency and appearance of the stool, and how you felt afterward.

What you eat. Write down what you eat, at what times, and in what amounts. This can help identify any foods and eating habits that may aggravate symptoms—as well as foods and eating habits that may help ease symptoms. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making any major changes to your diet.

Fiber intake. Eating too little fiber, too much fiber, or changing the amount of fiber you consume too quickly can aggravate symptoms. Check the nutritional labels on the foods you eat or look up the nutrition facts for foods that do not have a label (such as fruits, veggies, and other produce). The recommended daily intake of fiber is between 20 and 35 grams.

Fluid intake. Write down any beverages you consume, the quantity of these beverages, and the time of day you consume them.

Medications. Write down any medications you take, including medications prescribed for treating IBS or CIC, as well as medications for other health conditions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and any dietary supplements. Make note of the times you take these medications. If you haven’t already, make a list of all the medications and supplements you take and share this with your healthcare provider.

Menstrual cycle. Hormone levels can impact symptoms, and women who are menstruating should keep a record of where they are in their cycle.

Your activity level. Keep track of how active you are—and how much time you spend being sedentary. Activity includes exercise, as well as things like going for a short walk or doing chores. Note the duration of activities.

Your stress level. Make a note of your stress level, anything that caused you stress, and any methods you use to reduce stress. Ways to reduce stress can include activities like yoga and meditation, or something as simple as taking 20 minutes to enjoy a hobby, play with a pet, or spend time outdoors.

How symptoms impact your life. Did symptoms make work more difficult? Did symptoms prevent you from doing something you wanted to do? Have they impacted your relationships or social life? IBS and CIC can have a major impact on quality of life and your treatment plan should address this impact.

Any questions you have. Have a question for your healthcare provider? Write it down in your journal.

Remember that you don’t have to spend a lot of time on your journal each day—a few minutes to jot down some short notes can provide useful information for you and your healthcare provider. Also remember that there is no one best method for keeping a record. You can use a pen and notebook, use an app on your phone, or purchase a logbook designed for people with GI symptoms. The best system is the one that works for you.

Article sources open article sources

UpToDate. Patient education: Irritable bowel syndrome (Beyond the Basics). Keeping A Symptom Diary.
International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. "Symptom Diary.
UpToDate. Patient education: Constipation in adults (Beyond the Basics).
Harvard Health Publishing. A 20-minute nature break relieves stress.
Brooks D. Cash. Understanding and Managing IBS and CIC in the Primary Care Setting. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2018. Vol. 14, No. 5.

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