Dealing With Diarrhea from IBS

Diarrhea Happens, So You'll Need Some Tips On How To Handle It

Cocktail
Alcoholic drinks are known to set off a flare-up of IBS symptoms in some people. Photo © mluedtke

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which means that it causes symptoms but there is no evidence of disease. A colonoscopy will usually show healthy tissue in the colon, and a biopsy won't show any signs of disease. People with IBS may have a digestive system that is more sensitive to certain stimuli, including certain foods, medication, and stress. 

IBS tends to take one of three different types: diarrhea predominant (IBS-D), constipation predominant (IBS-C), and alternating diarrhea and constipation (IBS-A). Most people diagnosed with IBS have the diarrhea predominant form (IBS-D). Each form of IBS its challenges, and with diarrhea, bathroom access hemorrhoids, and skin irritation tend to be major issues.

Tips To Prevent Diarrhea 

Preventing or stopping IBS diarrhea may not always be possible, especially when first diagnosed and learning how to live with the condition. However, there are many steps that people with IBS can take to lessen the chances of developing a bout of diarrhea. Use these tips to help prevent diarrhea, and to take care of it quickly if and when it does occur.

Stopping 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 every person that has IBS, but some of the 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

Medications That Can Cause Diarrhea

Some common medications can cause diarrhea, such as antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and antacids containing magnesium. If you are taking a new medication and experience diarrhea, speak to your doctor to determine if the drug could be the cause.

What to Do When Diarrhea Happens

When diarrhea does occur, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can happen quickly when so much fluid is being lost from the body through diarrhea. If the diarrhea is severe, or goes on for an extended period of time, consider supplementing water with beef or chicken broth to replace lost electrolytes, or with commercial oral rehydration solutions. Fruit drinks and soda pop are also recommended for dehydration. However, be careful with these, as they may contain artificial sweeteners and caffeine that tend to be triggers for IBS.

Taking Care of Tender Skin

Irritation on 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 keeping clean at home. When away from home, keep a travel size of wipes in your purse, pocket or car (you can also carry them in a plastic baggie with a secure closure).

Eating for Diarrhea

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

Adding soluble fiber to the diet may help some people with 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

When It's Not IBS

The following are NOT symptoms of IBS, and if you experience them, you should see a doctor immediately:

A Word From Verywell

Diarrhea tends to be common in many people who have IBS. While in some cases diarrhea can be associated with known trigger foods, sometimes diarrhea can come on for seemingly no reason at all. Taking care of the problems associated with diarrhea, such as tender perianal skin and dehydration is an important factor. Additionally, getting the diarrhea under control by going back to a "safe" diet and putting other treatment plan measures into place is also going to help shorten the length of the diarrhea. Keeping a journal of foods and symptoms can also help in preventing diarrhea from happening in the future.

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