IBS with Diarrhea is usually referred to as IBS-D.
What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea describes bowel movements (stools) that are loose and watery. It is very common and usually not serious. Many people will have diarrhea once or twice each year. It typically lasts two to three days and can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Some people have diarrhea often as part of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or other chronic diseases of the large intestine.
Diarrhea is divided into “osmotic,” “secretory,” or “exudative.”
- Osmotic diarrhea means that something in the bowel is drawing water from the body into the bowel. A common example of this is “dietetic candy” or “chewing gum” diarrhea, in which a sugar substitute, such as sorbitol, is not absorbed by the body but draws water from the body into the bowel, resulting in diarrhea.
- Secretory diarrhea occurs when the body is releasing water into the bowel when it’s not supposed to. Many infections, drugs, and other conditions cause secretory diarrhea.
- Exudative diarrhea refers to the presence of blood and pus in the stool. This occurs with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, and several infections.
What Causes Diarrhea?
The most common cause is a virus that infects the gut. The infection usually lasts for two days and is sometimes called “intestinal flu” or “stomach flu.” The main causes include:
- Infection by bacteria (the cause of most types of food poisoning)
- Infections by other organisms
- Eating foods that upset the digestive system
- Allergies to certain foods
- Radiation therapy
- Diseases of the intestines (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
- Malabsorption (where the body is unable to adequately absorb certain nutrients from the diet)
- Some cancers
- Laxative abuse
- Alcohol abuse
- Digestive tract surgery
- Competitive running
Diarrhea is one of the symptoms often associated with IBS. The key symptom of IBS is abdominal pain and/or discomfort. The pain or discomfort is associated with a change in the frequency or consistency of stool. The altered bowel habit may be chronic or recurrent diarrhea, or constipation. Some people have both diarrhea and constipation, just at different times. Bloating or distention in the abdomen is also common.
Each case of IBS with diarrhea is different. Certain symptoms may only affect some women, and a person’s symptoms may change over time. It is important to know about all of the common symptoms so that you can listen to your body, talk to your doctor, and make the right decisions about treatment.