Most people define diarrhea as loose stools or watery stools. Others think of diarrhea as frequent bowel movements.
Diarrhea is one of the symptoms often associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The key symptom of IBS is abdominal pain. The pain 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.
IBS with diarrhea is sometimes referred to as IBS-D.
Learn more about diet strategies for managing chronic diarrhea
IBS in the Real World
In 2002, we contacted a random sample from our IFFGD database of U.S. adults diagnosed with IBS. A total of 350 people took part in telephone interviews. The information gathered reflects the tremendous burden IBS can impose upon a large proportion of sufferers.
Those who experienced IBS with diarrhea reported having multiple symptoms. Nearly all reported…
- Abdominal pain
- Sudden urges
- Loose stools
The most bothersome symptoms of IBS with diarrhea reported were…
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Sudden urges to have bowel movements
Other common symptoms of IBS with diarrhea were…
- Frequent stools
- Feeling of being unable to completely empty at bowel movements
Loss of bowel control or soiling was reported by about 1 in 3 of these IBS sufferers.
On average the frequency of symptoms reported by diarrhea sufferers translates to over 200 episodes a year for gas and frequent stools.
Living with IBS – Personal Stories
“My ‘stomach problems’ started after a trip to India 9 years ago. I was slightly ill on the trip back but didn’t think anything of it. But 6 months after returning home I was still having diarrhea up to 9 times a day with bloating stomach cramps, extreme tiredness and feeling generally run down. To cut a long story short I have had all the tests and eventually been told that I have IBS.
“It’s been a long and extremely hard journey but life is better. The hardest thing is that other people who don’t have IBS can never understand what its like – even the closet friends get fed up with you always needing toilet stops or stressing about new places. I have to be careful not to let food and bowels run my life but you can find a way to live with IBS.”
“I am a male and have had to deal with IBS-D for about 15 years. My first episode was at a football game and I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. Very embarrassing and traumatic. I thought ‘What just happened?’ Since then I have had other episodes while traveling that have either been disasters or close calls. Anxiety plays a big role in triggering episodes. I worry about having an accident which causes more anxiety which causes more accident potential – classic with the syndrome!
“I have learned to avoid certain foods and beverages but do occasionally fall off the wagon. Anti-diarrheal and anti-anxiety meds in small doses has helped. Mostly, I scope out the nearest bathrooms and let the chips fall where they may. I love golf and always use the course restrooms whether I need them at the time or not just to be on the safe side. I am up front with my golfing buddies and they understand when I need to rush ahead to the next ‘hole’. Airplane travel is really tough when the light comes on to stay in your seat and you really, really need to go. More than once I have been ‘that guy’ who gets up and rushes down the aisle. My biggest fear is having an accident on a plane or bus while touring. It has restricted my travel plans but my wife has the patience of Job and is very helpful in getting me through the tough times. It helps to write about it. Thanks for listening.”
– From our Personal Stories