IBS With Constipation
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common and complex medical condition. Those affected by IBS endure uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms although no definitive cause for their misery can be identified.
IBS affects between 10 to 15% of the U.S. population with two-thirds of IBS sufferers being women. Some people with IBS have constipation (difficult or infrequent bowel movements), others have diarrhea (frequent loose stools, often with an urgent need to move the bowels) and some people experience both.
In some people, constipation predominates (IBS-C); in others, diarrhea is more common (IBS-D). Some people have both (IBS-M for "mixed") or the constipation and diarrhea can alternate (IBS-A). Sometimes the person with IBS-C has a crampy urge to move the bowels but can’t do so. IBS-C is also defined as hard or lumpy stools at least 25% of the time.
IBS is often defined in the medical community as abdominal (and stomach) pain or discomfort, along with a changed bowel habit (such as diarrhea or constipation), for three months or more. While IBS symptoms may be different from person to person, if you’re suffering from IBS with constipation, you may experience:
- Cramps or pain in the stomach area
- Infrequent stools that may be hard and dry
- Feeling like you haven't finished a bowel movement
- Alternating between diarrhea and constipation
- Mucus in the stool
- Swollen or bloated stomach area
- Discomfort in the upper stomach area or feeling uncomfortably full or nauseous after eating a normal size meal
- If you’re a woman with IBS, you may experience more symptoms during your menstrual periods
The medical community hasn’t determined an exact cause of IBS, and the symptoms of this chronic condition vary amongst individuals, so it could be a number of factors that are contributing to your IBS-C. It may run in your family, you could have food sensitivities, or even low mobility can lead to constipation. If your IBS-C came on after a recent stressful personal situation, it could be related to that. Stress can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS, and, since your colon has nerves that connect it to the brain, these contractions of the colon may cause abdominal discomfort during stressful times. Your IBS-C may also be due changes in your diet, especially if you’re not eating enough fiber-rich foods or follow a diet that contains too many refined foods.
Chances are, your doctor may recommend a variety of treatments to help with your IBS-C depending on any other symptoms you’re experiencing other than constipation. Your physician might recommend prescription drugs or over-the-counter products such as polyethylene glycol solutions, which can increase intestinal fluid to help pass stool and relieve your chronic constipation.
Probiotics—live bacteria found in products like yoghurt—may also help with IBS symptoms. For IBS with constipation, it’s a good idea to gradually introduce high-fiber foods into your diet, like whole-grain breads, cereals and beans. And it’s a good idea to say away from coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol as they might slow the passage of stool.
If your stomach and abdominal pain is severe, your doctor might prescribe antidepressants because they can help reduce visceral nerve sensitivity and help repair the brain-gut dysfunction that’s causing your symptoms. Getting a handle on your daily stressors may also help with your IBS constipation problems. Your doctor might recommend you learn stress management techniques like meditation, gentle exercises, deep breathing, or, even hypnosis or cognitive-behavioral treatment.