What are the different types of IBS?

What are the different types of IBS?

Being a chronic condition, IBS symptoms tend to flare up intermittently. The Rome Foundation, an organisation that defines, researches and classifies functional conditions and gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS, has managed to divide the condition into four different sub-types. These are defined by the consistency of the stool during an IBS flare-up.

If you are able to determine the type of IBS that you have, it will make it easier for your doctor to pinpoint what the possible triggers are for you and this will help him/her to prescribe effective medication. In addition to medication, you will also be able to:

  • Enforce dietary changes needed by detecting which foods are creating an IBS reaction.
  • Avoid situations that invoke stress as this may cause your gut to react negatively.
  • Take prescribed medication to relieve diarrhoea and laxatives for constipation.

The following are the four sub-types of IBS that have been identified:

  • Constipation with IBS is known as IBS – C (the ‘C’ stands for constipation).
  • The same thinking is applied for diarrhoea with IBS, which is known as IBS – D.
  • When people have a pattern of diarrhoea and constipation that is alternating, this is known as IBS – M (mixed IBS).
  • If someone does not fit into this pattern, they are often diagnosed with IBS – U, this is unsubtyped IBS.

The types are further explained as follows:

IBS - C: Constipation with IBS

This type of IBS often results in painful and hard stools over 25% of the period of the IBS flare-up. It is also possible for people to experience watery stools and diarrhoea for 25% or less of the time. However, the identifying factor is the predominant constipation.

Your doctor is likely to conduct imaging tests in order to detect rule out any anatomical abnormalities (abnormal structures that are in an odd location or have an inconsistent or strange shape) in the gut.

You will be advised to include more fibre in your diet as well as whole grains in order to help your stools to soften and allow them to pass with ease.   If necessary, a bulking agent may be prescribed to aid this process.

Symptoms may include:

  • Dry, small and hard stools associated with constipation.
  • Pain in your abdominal region, this often includes sharp stabbing sensations and cramping.
  • Constantly feeling like you need to go to the toilet.
  • Feeling bloated and gassy, particularly after certain foods.
  • Mucus in your stool.
  • Internal haemorrhoids may result due to having to strain during a bowel movement and this may result in anal bleeding when you go to the toilet.

Your doctor is likely to provide you with laxatives to help relieve your constipation, he/she may prescribe something with more strength than over-the-counter drugs such as Lubiprostone (Amitiza) – this helps to treat chronic constipation.

IBS – C can be a very uncomfortable condition. If you feel as though you may have it, do not try to diagnose yourself. Rather make an appointment to see your doctor. The symptoms of IBS are very similar to symptoms of other conditions, it is dangerous to confuse them and misdiagnose yourself. Many women experiencing this tend to think they are having their periods and write off the condition. Always seek professional advice when you are unsure or you feel as though your symptoms may be more serious.

IBS - D: Diarrhoea with IBS

With this type of IBS, people experience loose, watery stools associated with diarrhoea for more than 25% of their IBS flare-up. Constipation is not typically experienced with this type of IBS.

Your doctor will probably suggest that you eat smaller meals more frequently, as well as avoid certain foods that may trigger the diarrhoea. Spicy foods, dairy and artificial sweeteners should be avoided.  

Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Suddenly needing to go the toilet
  • Having no bowel control
  • Gas
  • Loose, watery stools

Stress and other psychological traumas are often triggers for diarrhoea. Wheat, dairy, red wine and caffeine have also been known to trigger it. IBS – D can be a very embarrassing and uncomfortable condition. Your doctor will most likely prescribe antidiarrheal medications (mentioned later in this article). However, we will also discuss certain lifestyle factors that can be taken into consideration and changed in order to prevent or lessen the symptoms of IBS – D.

IBS - M: Mixed type IBS

A few people with IBS do not definitively experience one of the above-mentioned types. If a sufferer experiences alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhoea, they will fall into this category. This means diarrhoea and constipation are experienced during the same flare-up. In this case, triggers will need to be identified in order to balance treatments. Dietary changes, avoiding stressful situations, and being prescribed anti-diarrheal medications as well as laxatives will help ease the symptoms of abdominal pain, gas and bloating, as well as diarrhoea and constipation. 

Unsubtyped IBS

This type of IBS is known to include the following symptoms:

  • Gas
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort

What makes this type of IBS different is that people who fall into this category are not likely to experience irregularities in their stool.

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