Dealing With Diarrhea From IBS

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) makes your digestive system sensitive to certain stimuli, including certain foods, medication, and stress. Most people with IBS have the diarrhea-predominant type, called IBS-D.

It may not always be possible to prevent or stop IBS diarrhea, but you have lots of ways to make bouts of diarrhea less common, head them off quickly when they do occur, and manage the accompanying symptoms. The basics of this include:

  • Learning which foods trigger or prevent diarrhea
  • Learning which medications trigger diarrhea
  • Staying hydrated
  • Caring for irritated skin around the anus
Helen Yin / Getty Images

IBS Subtypes

  • IBS-D: Diarrhea-predominant
  • IBS-C: Constipation predominant
  • IBS-A or IBS-M: Alternating or mixed diarrhea and constipation
  • IBS-U: No significant pattern of abnormal stool

Stop Diarrhea Through Diet

Prevent diarrhea in the first place by maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet free of trigger foods. Trigger foods are different for everyone with IBS, but some common ones include:

  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes
  • Artificial fat (Olestra)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Coconut milk
  • Coffee (even decaffeinated)
  • Dairy
  • Egg yolks
  • Fried foods
  • Oils
  • Poultry skin and dark meat
  • Red meat
  • Shortening
  • Solid chocolate

You may also want to try a low-FODMAP diet, which restricts certain sugars that are hard for the body to digest. The American College of Gastroenterology's 2021 IBS Guidelines recommend a limited trial of this diet.

Increasing Soluble Fiber

Adding soluble fiber to the diet may help reduce diarrhea from IBS. Some sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Currants
  • Dried beans
  • Figs
  • French bread
  • Fresh peas
  • Methylcellulose (Citrucel)
  • Oat Bran
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Prunes
  • Psyllium husks (Metamucil)
  • Raisins
  • Rice
  • Sourdough bread
  • Soy

Watch Your Portions

Eating smaller portions at mealtimes may help some people who feel full and bloated after eating.

Drugs That Can Cause Diarrhea

Some common medications that can cause diarrhea include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Antacids containing magnesium

If you're taking a new medication and experience diarrhea, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if the drug could be the cause.

Staying Hydrated

When you do have diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. The fluids lost through diarrhea can dehydrate you quickly, especially if diarrhea is severe or goes on for an extended period of time.

While water is great for replacing that lost fluid, you may want to consider replacing electrolytes with:

  • Beef or chicken broth
  • Rehydrating drinks like Gatorade or Powerade
  • Fruit drinks
  • Soda pop

However, be careful with fruit drinks and soda, as some contain artificial sweeteners and caffeine that may trigger IBS.

Taking Care of Tender Skin

Irritation in and around the anal area can be common with severe or prolonged bouts of diarrhea. This can often occur as a result of wiping frequently as well as from the bile that's being passed with diarrhea. 

Keep the area clean using water and personal care wipes instead of toilet paper. A spray nozzle on the shower is helpful for washing thoroughly at home. Be sure the water isn't too hot, though, or it could irritate things more.

When away from home, keep travel-sized wipes in your purse, pocket, or car. Or, pack some regular wipes from home in a plastic baggie with a secure closure.

A barrier cream can help soothe the skin and protect it from further diarrhea damage. Look for:

  • Diaper rash creams with zinc oxide
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Vitamin A or vitamin D creams

When It's Not IBS

The following are not symptoms of IBS, and if you experience them, you should see a healthcare provider immediately:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Severe pain

A Word From Verywell

Having frequent diarrhea is not only painful and inconvenient, it can also be embarrassing and make you afraid of going out. When you take steps to prevent it, though, and you're prepared for when it does hit, you'll feel more confident and able to do the things you enjoy. Working with your healthcare provider and sticking to your treatment and management strategies are all part of that.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.