Three women who resemble Goldilocks each hold varying levels of water in glasses and bottles.

Hydration and IBS

The truth is nowadays I don't really drink any other beverages other than plain water and my morning (decaf) tea. But it wasn't always that way. I used to be a daily coffee drinker, indulging in several cups a day, despite that it often triggered or exacerbated my IBS.

I have always been more prone to diarrhea rather than constipation, though I am no stranger to the latter as well. This means that sometimes it's been difficult to discern when and how I should be drinking water.

Constipation, diarrhea, and water

For instance, when dealing with constipation, I tend to try to drink a lot of water to get things moving. In the past, I did this with coffee, which I realized was only a short-term solution and overall made my IBS (both diarrhea and constipation) much worse. However, when dealing with diarrhea, sometimes it seemed even drinking something as simple and plain and crucial to the body as water, could set off an episode if I was already feeling prone to one, or make it worse if I was in the middle of it. At the same time though, diarrhea can be dehydrating, which makes water necessary.

Is it possible to drink too much water?

I've noticed that drinking too many fluids, including water, with a big meal can trigger IBS as well; as can drinking water too fast and drinking it too cold (ice water can send the gut into spasms, which is why when I am at restaurants I usually request my water come with "no ice" or if I really want some "very little" ice). This doesn't mean to avoid water altogether during meals. I find it's actually the best beverage to have with a meal. But I drink it moderately, in small sips throughout the meal. I wait to drink more water until after I have fully digest my meal.

When I am having an IBS-D outbreak, I still drink water, but I also drink it moderately, in small sips and spaced out, so as not to overwhelm my body when it's already stressed out and in spasm.

Research about staying hydrated with IBS

Interestingly, when I tried to do some research specific to IBS-D and water, I found a published peer-review study from last year that conducted a survey on 27 patients with IBS-D who drank alkaline-reduced water for eight weeks versus a placebo and found that those who drank the special water had improved symptoms and quality of life for half or more of the weeks earmarked for the study. The study concluded that "Drinking [alkaline-reduced water] for eight weeks improves the quality of life in patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS."1 Of course, this is a very small sample and short duration of time for the study to be conducted, so it's difficult to determine how effective the results would be with a wider sample over the longer term.

While I can't vouch for special waters (other than that have a water filter on my tap, which I think helps me have purer water), I can say with some certainty that giving up most other beverages besides water as my go-to drink and staying hydrated throughout the day, benefits my IBS immensely overall.

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