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Types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

There are three types of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. They include:

  • IBS with constipation. This comes with stomach pain and discomfort, bloating, abnormally delayed or infrequent bowel movement, or lumpy/hard stool.
  • IBS with diarrhea. This comes with stomach pain and discomfort, an urgent need to move your bowels, abnormally frequent bowel movements, or loose/watery stool.
  • IBS with alternating constipation and diarrhea.

There are about an equal number of people with IBS in each category. There is also evidence that most people with IBS will alternate between types over time.

Recommended Related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Finding the Right Diet for IBS

It's not easy to find the right diet when you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Eating certain foods can cause major discomfort for people with IBS, but figuring out which foods cause the symptoms is a highly individual process. WebMD consulted gastrointestinal nutrition expert Patsy Catsos, MS, RD, author of IBS -- Free at Last!, for answers to your questions about diet and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Read the Finding the Right Diet for IBS article > >

This all makes it difficult for researchers to find a single drug treatment that will relieve all the symptoms of IBS. Different medications work for IBS with constipation and for IBS with diarrhea. Doctors will usually tailor an individual treatment regimen for people who have IBS with alternating symptoms.

People with alternating IBS symptoms should not try to treat themselves, says J. Patrick Waring, MD, a gastroenterologist at Digestive Health Care of Georgia.

"They should not take something for their constipation on their own, and then when they get diarrhea, take something for their diarrhea, and go back and forth," he says. "That can actually exacerbate the problem."

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 01, 2014
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