Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

Font Size

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Diarrhea

People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diarrhea often find relief from several types of treatment.

Treatment options include dietary changes, medication, stress reduction, behavioral therapy, and alternative therapy. You may need to try just one, or you may need a combination of these approaches to get relief.

Recommended Related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) With Constipation

If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation, you may feel too uncomfortable to eat anything. Yet it is very important to maintain a balanced diet for good health. Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Guide to Better Digestion, suggests enjoying all foods in moderation, and adding high-fiber foods to your diet gradually to help relieve IBS. "The goal is not to be unnecessarily restrictive," Bonci says, pointing out that some people with IBS give...

Read the A Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) With Constipation article > >

After all, IBS is a complex syndrome that not only involves problems with bowel movement, but also abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and gas. The goal of treatment is to improve all of your symptoms.

To find out what treatment is right for you, talk with your doctor. Never attempt to treat yourself for IBS without consulting with a doctor. Some over-the-counter medicines and supplements have health risks if taken for a long time. Your doctor will likely recommend one or a combination of the following treatment strategies.

IBS and Diet

A few changes in your diet may help ease IBS with diarrhea.

Avoid chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, the artificial sweetener sorbitol (found in sugarless gum and mints), and fructose (the simple sugar found in honey and many fruits). These can worsen diarrhea symptoms. Your eating history can help you determine if any of these are triggers for your symptoms.

Fried fare and too much fiber can also worsen symptoms. This doesn't mean you should avoid fiber altogether. The nutrient works to prevent diseases such as colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Plus, it keeps your diarrhea from turning into constipation. However fiber sometimes leads to flatulence and bloating.

With the diarrhea, it's best to consume soluble -- as opposed to insoluble -- fiber. It takes a longer time to leave the digestive system, says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of the "American Dietetic Association Guide to Better Digestion."

Good sources of soluble fiber include oat bran, barley, the flesh of fruit (as opposed to the skin), and navy, pinto, and lima beans.

It may also help to drink six to eight glasses of plain water a day. Bonci suggests drinking water an hour before or an hour after meals. Drinking water with meals may make the food run through your system a little faster.

Ask your doctor to test you for lactose intolerance (the inability to properly digest milk products), or celiac sprue (a serious disease in which foods with gluten can damage the intestine). These digestive ailments can cause diarrhea, bloating, and cramping.

It might also help if you keep a record of the foods you eat, and their effect on you. Since different foods can impact people in different ways, keeping an IBS symptom journal can help you and your physician figure out what works for you.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines for IBS

Many sufferers and doctors turn to OTC antidiarrhea drugs such as Imodium, Maalox, and Kaopectate for relief of IBS with diarrhea.

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

what is ibs
lactose intolerance
Finding Right Diet IBS
myth and facts about constipation
IBS Trigger Foods
Supplements for IBS What Works
IBS Symptoms Quiz
digestive health
gluten free diet
digestive myths
what causes diarrhea
top foods for probiotics

WebMD Special Sections