The Difference Between IBS-C And IBS-D

1 February 2022

A common misconception is that everyone suffering from IBS struggles with the same symptoms and needs the same treatment. In fact, there are over three different variations to IBS that we can categorise, but even within those diagnoses, people can experience it differently. Whereas you may be struggling with diarrhea, others may have problems going to the toilet at all and end up feeling constipated for weeks. For some, an IBS attack may be triggered by food whereas others notice their gut problems to play up during stressful times. Whatever your experience with gut health issues, we’re here to cover the differences between IBS-C and IBS-D. Not to worry if you have IBS-M or IBS-A, we’ll cover those types too!

Types of IBS

Let’s start off with the different types of IBS so we all understand what we’re talking about. IBS-C or IBS-D may sound like a bunch of letters put together, which makes it more tricky to recognise what type fits your situation best.

  • IBS-C: Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation. 
  • IBS-D: Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea
  • IBS-M or IBS-A: Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Mixed or Alternating Symptoms

To summarise it for you, the main difference between IBS-C, IBS-D and IBS-M is bowel movement. With IBS-C, there can be very little to sometimes even zero bowel movement which causes constipation. On the other hand, the main issue with IBS-D is that there is too much bowel movement, resulting in diarrhea. If you experience both symptoms, alternating each other, then you can probably identify with IBS-M or IBS-A.

IBS symptoms and how to treat them

Symptoms of IBS-C And What Treatment Helps Best

Now that we have established the meaning behind IBS-C, it’s time to look at the further symptoms. Constipation is a big one, but it’s not the only symptom, unfortunately. As there is little bowel movement, this can cause major bloating, excessive gas, severe stomach pain and loss of appetite. You may be able to feel hard blockages in your stomach and any bowel movements can be very painful. That’s quite the list of symptoms and as IBS-C can affect your everyday life tremendously, it needs a treatment.

How much we wished we could say there was one treatment for IBS-C that would solve all of your problems, that’s sadly not the case. If you suffer from IBS with constipation, you can minimise your symptoms by following a low FODMAP diet or taking fiber suppledments, laxatives or probiotics. Following a low FODMAP diet can help to improve your gut health and it makes you stay away from any foods that can trigger your IBS to flare up. Fiber supplements can help to increase bowel movement and by taking this daily, you lower the risk of getting constipated. 

IBS-D Symptoms and Treatment

On the other side of the spectrum, but equally as painful and frustrating, is IBS with Diarrhea. When it comes to IBS-D, a person usually has bowel movements too frequently which results in diarrhea. This type of IBS can be extremely difficult as bowel movements often come unexpectedly and urgently. This means someone could be absolutely fine one minute and be running to the bathroom the next. IBS-D symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, loose and frequent stools and nausea. It can even lead to severe weight loss as it can be difficult for those with IBS-D to properly digest their food. 

As for treatment, staying away from any high FODMAP foods such as dairy, wheat and grains, but also black beans and edamame, can help to reduce the symptoms of IBS-D. Why don’t you have a look at our low FODMAP recipes? Who knows, they may help you enormously! 

How To Treat IBS-M or IBS-A

IBS with mixed or alternating symptoms, you’re in for a treat! For the unlucky ones who have alternating symptoms, finding the right treatments can be even more difficult as their bowel movements change so much. Again, one of the most helpful treatments is following the low FODMAP diet, which has proven to be very effective for those suffering from IBS. We wouldn’t recommend using fiber supplements or loperamide as this can mess with your bowel movements even more. Find all our IBS tips and recipe ideas in our wellbeing hub.

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