An annoyed-looking woman acts as the fulcrum for a seesaw with bottles of pills in flames on either side.

IBS-M: How Do You Treat It?

Do you have IBS-M? If you do, I am sure you are as frustrated as I am. The treatment options are sorely lacking. Clinical trials and studies are virtually nonexistent. We are living with both sides of the IBS coin, but we do not have an effective way to consistently treat any of it.

Prescription medications for IBS subtypes

There are several prescription medications designed to treat IBS-D. There are medications designed to treat IBS-C. While many have found little or no relief with any of the medications offered for the specific subtype they have, there are options to try. Some people do find relief with medication. Perhaps I have missed an announcement, but I have not seen a prescription medication designed to treat IBS-M. How would you treat it? The constant cycling of symptoms is unpredictable, and treating one set of symptoms will inevitably trigger the opposite. I understand how difficult it would be to develop an effective treatment for something constantly changing. I also understand the frustration of having what feels like the forgotten stepchild of IBS.

Now, I am not saying that living with any IBS subtype is easier than living with one of the others. All forms are awful, and those of us who experience both IBS-D and IBS-C understand this all too well. My personal preference of the subtypes is not to have any type. Of course, that is not going to happen, but that would be my preference - a life without irritable bowel syndrome. Having said that, having no medication options for prevention and not knowing what to treat is extremely frustrating.

Trying to treat symptoms rather than prevent

While the main focus of treatments for IBS-D and IBS-C is prevention, the treatment of IBS-M involves treating rather than preventing symptoms. Since the symptoms of IBS-M are constantly changing, it is difficult to treat the symptoms. Taking a laxative or stimulant to treat an IBS-C flare inevitably triggers an IBS-D flare for me. Using an antidiarrheal medication will trigger a bout of IBS-C. We are told to treat our symptoms, but those treatments only trigger more symptoms. You cannot win.

I decided a long time ago that it was best for me to avoid any type of treatment, if possible. Some bouts of IBS-C have required treatment to prevent bigger issues from developing. When it becomes necessary to intervene, the result is always the same. I will have a short IBS-D flare followed by another horrible IBS-C flare. If I treat an IBS-D flare, the resulting IBS-C flare will inevitably require treatment. This sparks a vicious cycle of severe flares that often takes months to lessen in severity.

Living with IBS-M

In some ways, living with IBS-M is the same as living with IBS-C or IBS-D. Flares are unpredictable. Many are unable to find an effective treatment. Almost everyone has pain associated with IBS. We are all trying to find relief and improve our quality of life. We all suffer from an unpredictable digestive disorder. The difference is symptoms swing back and forth from one extreme to the other, making it impossible to know what to treat from one day to the next.

Please do not misinterpret what I am saying. I do not think it is easier to have one type of IBS over the other. It certainly is not. I experience it all and know that all types are horrible. What I am saying is that it is extremely frustrating not knowing what each new day will bring. Just like you, I am trying to predict the unpredictable. Unfortunately, I rarely know which set of symptoms I am trying to predict. Adding another variable compounds my frustration, and I am sure others are equally frustrated. If you are riding the IBS-M rollercoaster, you are not alone. If you find out how to get off this ride, please let me know.

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