There are three main IBS types, described by their main symptoms: diarrhoea, constipation or a mixture of the two:
- IBS with constipation. This comes with stomach pain and discomfort, bloating, abnormally delayed or infrequent bowel movement, or lumpy/hard stool.
- IBS with diarrhoea. This comes with stomach pain and discomfort, an urgent need to move your bowels, abnormally frequent bowel movements, or loose/watery stool.
There is no cure for IBS, but its symptoms can be treated with a combination of the following:
- changes in eating, diet and nutrition
- therapies for mental health problems
Certain foods and drinks may cause IBS symptoms in some people, such as
- foods high in fat
- milk products
- drinks with alcohol or caffeine
- drinks with large amounts of artificial sweeteners, substances used in place of sugar foods that may cause gas, such as beans and cabbage
People with IBS may want to limit or avoid these foods. Keeping a food diary is a good way to track which foods cause symptoms so they can be reduced or removed from the diet.
Dietary fiber may lessen constipation in people with IBS, but it may not help lower pain. Fiber helps keep stool soft so it moves smoothly through the colon.A successful treatment plan should include education, nutrition and appropriate medication.
The health-care provider will select medications based on your symptoms.
- Fiber supplements. Fiber supplements may be recommended to relieve constipation when increasing dietary fiber is ineffective.
- Laxatives. Constipation can be treated with laxative medications. Laxatives work in different ways, and a health-care provider can provide information about which type is best for each person. More information about the different types of laxatives can be found in the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) fact sheet Constipation.
- Antidiarrheals. Loperamide has been found to reduce diarrhea in people with IBS, though it doesn’t reduce pain, bloating, or other symptoms. Loperamide reduces stool frequency and improves stool consistency by slowing the movement of stool through the colon.
- Antispasmodics. Antispasmodics, such as hyoscine, cimetropium and pinaverium, help to control colon muscle spasms and reduce abdominal pain.