Speak From The Gut:
The Truth About IBS-D

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Understanding IBS-D

IBS-D is a medical condition that many people may not fully understand, and may feel uncomfortable talking about. IBS-D is not the same as an occasional stomach issue. It is a condition that is long-lasting (chronic), that includes frequent episodes of diarrhea as the most common symptom, along with abdominal pain. In simpler terms, IBS-D can, quite literally, be a huge pain.

You may have heard of IBS before, but be unfamiliar with the term IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D). It's important to understand that IBS has several subtypes, IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), IBS with constipation (IBS-C), and IBS with mixed bowel pattern (IBS-M), which can vary between constipation and diarrhea.

IBS-D is defined by these symptoms when they can't be explained by another disease, condition, or side effect of a medication:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort that occurs at least 3 days a month for at least 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months before diagnosis and is improved by having a bowel movement and/or comes along with changes in the frequency or appearance of bowel movements
  • Loose or watery stool at least 25% of the time
  • Hard or lumpy stool less than 25% of the time
IBS CAN, QUITE
LITERALLY, BE
A HUGE PAIN.

Common Symptoms of IBS-D

Symptoms of IBS-D can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.
Those with IBS-D often experience multiple symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden urges to have bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Loose stools
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Incomplete evacuation
  • Frequent stools
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain

A doctor can recommend dietary and lifestyle changes and prescription medication that may offer symptomatic relief.

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Causes of IBS-D

While food or stress can often trigger IBS-D symptoms, there's more to the story. The exact cause of IBS-D is unclear but experts believe that one or more factors may be involved:

Possible Factor Meaning
A change in the speed of food moving through your colon Your colon contracts (squeezes and releases) to remove waste out of your body. If contractions are too fast, this can speed up the process and lead to diarrhea.
Hypersensitive intestines Your intestines may be more sensitive to movement. This may cause you to feel more pain than other people when your intestines are active or stretched as food moves through them. This sensitivity may also lead to changes in the speed of digestion and secretion.
Communication problems between your brain and gut Your brain and gut may not be communicating properly. This can lead to changes in how quickly food moves through your gut, the secretions that occur along the way, and the sensations you feel as the food is broken down and moved along.

Additional possible causes of IBS-D include local inflammation and psychological factors.

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Take The Mythbusters Quiz!

Want to learn more about IBS-D? Take this quick interactive quiz to get the myths vs the facts. At the end, print your results and bring them to your next doctor’s appointment to jumpstart the discussion.

Question #1

Having frequent stomach pain coupled with diarrhea is a sign you may have IBS‑D.

Myth

or

Fact

Answer #1

Fact.

IBS-D is defined by these symptoms when they can't be explained by another disease, condition or side effect of a medication:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort that occurs at least 3 days a month for at least 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months before diagnosis and is improved by having a bowel movement and/or comes along with changes in the frequency or appearance of bowel movements
  • Loose or watery stool at least 25% of the time
  • Hard or lumpy stool less than 25% of the time

Question #2

IBS and IBS-D are exactly the same thing.

Myth
or
Fact

Answer #2

Myth.

IBS is a chronic, multi-symptom disorder, and symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and altered bowel habits (eg, diarrhea and/or constipation)

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort that occurs at least 3 days a month for at least 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months before diagnosis and is improved by having a bowel movement and/or comes along with changes in the frequency or appearance of bowel movements
  • Loose or watery stool at least 25% of the time
  • Hard or lumpy stool less than 25% of the time

Question #3

IBS-D will eventually go away on its own.

Myth
or
Fact

Answer #3

Myth.

Unfortunately, IBS-D, along with all types of IBS, is a long-term condition that generally requires long-term management strategies. People with IBS-D symptoms should work with a physician to get a diagnosis and determine the best course of management.

Question #4

It’s possible to be diagnosed with IBS-D without a clinical diagnostic test.

Myth
or
Fact

Answer #4

Fact.

Patients who present with symptoms of IBS-D typically are asked about their medical history and they undergo a physical examination to rule out other causes of GI symptoms such as illnesses, medications, or GI tract conditions. Diagnostic testing is not routinely performed unless there are “red flags,” signs or symptoms (eg, blood in the stool), suggesting the possibility of potentially more serious conditions other than IBS-D.

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Tips For Talking to Your Doctor About IBS-D

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