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How Does Treating Diarrhea Affect IBS-M?

I have irritable bowel syndrome with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M) which means I have episodes of IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D) and IBS with constipation (IBS-C). Treating one type of flare is tricky because it almost always results in a flare of the opposite type. This is my experience.

I recently had either a bout of food poisoning or a bad stomach bug on top of an IBS-D flare. Whatever it was kept me chained to the bathroom even more than during a normal IBS-D flare. After spending four days unable to stop going, I had to make a decision on treatment.

Debating on treating severe diarrhea

I try my best not to treat either type of flare. What good does it do to simply switch to another type of flare? It’s still an IBS flare, and it still causes problems and pain. It has been a couple of years since I treated an IBS-D flare, but this was more than a normal episode. This was worse than I had experienced in a long time.

No matter what made this episode so horrible, it was indeed horrific and I had an appointment that I absolutely could not miss. I decided I had to take medication to treat it so I could leave home and attend my appointment.

Treating an IBS-D flare to attend an appointment

When I woke up that morning, I took an over-the-counter medication used to treat diarrhea. As I swallowed the pill, I knew I would regret it but felt I had no other choice. It was necessary. I absolutely could not miss the appointment.

After my appointment was over, I was feeling okay and decided to do some shopping. I rarely leave home due to mobility issues and wanted to take advantage of being out of the house. That one pill had me feeling pretty confident that I had time.

Triggering an IBS-C flare

I was about an hour from home and in the middle of a store when I felt the tell-tale cramping. I took a few deep breaths and tried to ignore it while hurrying to finish my shopping. This was going to be a problem.

I really did not want to take a second pill. One was bad enough. Two was not a risk. It was a guarantee of having an IBS-C flare.

Failing to find an accessible restroom in public

In hopes of avoiding having to take another pill, I started searching for the restroom. I am not a big fan of public restrooms and will often fast or avoid leaving home so I don’t have to use them. I had indeed been fasting, but this bout of whatever illness was emptying out things I ate in the third grade.

Since I was out in public and have mobility issues, I was in my wheelchair. I did not bring my cane into the store with me so I was unable to walk any distance. The only public restroom had a heavy push door that I could not open. There was no family bathroom. I was unable to get into the restroom no matter how much I needed to go.

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Trying to make it home during a flare

Sometimes if I can go shortly after the first bit of cramping appears I can manage for a while. This gives me time to get back home. Since there wasn’t a bathroom that was accessible to me, that was not an option.

I felt like I had no choice. As soon as I returned to the vehicle, I took a second pill in hopes that I would make the drive home without having an accident. It was a very long hour.

A standoff with IBS-C

Fortunately, I did make it home. Unfortunately, as expected, I spent 4 days unable to go. Yes, 4. Considering my system was pretty empty, it was not as miserable as I expected it to be. It was still pretty miserable, but I know it could be worse. I have dealt with worse.

Still, 4 days is a long time and now I must decide on whether or not to treat this IBS-C flare and risk triggering an IBS-D flare…again.

Managing symptoms is a gamble

Treating an IBS-M flare is a crap shoot. You might find relief. You might have a flare of the opposite type. It feels like you cannot win.

Do you have IBS-M? Do you treat flares? If so, how does it affect you? I would love to hear about your experience.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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