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A person in a yoga pose balances on the top of a mountain, surrounded by similar peaks as well as valleys.

Struggling with IBS-A

So which is worse? Diarrhea or constipation? How about, which is worse, diarrhea, constipation or…diarrhea and constipation. I think we all know the answer to that question (depending on the severity of your particular brand of IBS, of course). Well, I suffer from the ‘both’ kind. Alternating, sometimes within a few days, between IBS-D and IBS-C. Wow, this is great. I was pissed off enough when I was diagnosed with IBS-D three years ago. Over the last year, my IBS has morphed into an even more distressing beast. How does one deal with this? How do you treat both? It’s a frustration that I know many people have. I still have not really learned how to deal with it, but I’d like to share my experience, perhaps only for cathartic reasons.

My experience with IBS-A

I think I’ve tried to take the ‘glass half full’ attitude with all this. To me, constipation hurts a lot worse. My back pain gets really bad and I find myself very frustrated because it is very difficult to focus on my responsibilities when there is pain like this. The diarrhea is annoying, dirty, hard on my self-esteem and just generally, very unpleasant. I have a different type of stomach ‘pain,’ but it is more uncomfortable than painful. This is the best way I can describe it. I have been prescribed medication, dietary ideas, and stress reduction techniques. Some work, some don’t. The constant struggle is that a lot of the things that help constipation aggravate diarrhea and vice-versa. I think I have a pretty good handle on managing the IBS-D. I have an excellent diet that seems to keep things at bay for long periods. I go to the gym whenever I can and I have worked on the mental health issues that go along with it to the point that I can truly say I’m ‘stable.’ And happy…until. I may go weeks or months without any serious issues, but the pattern now is that diarrhea and all the things that go with it come back. Then, within a week or so, everything dries up and I have to deal with constipation and back pain. Terrible stuff. The only thing I can think of is to go back to the drawing board and start addressing them as a single problem, just with more variables.

How I manage IBS-A

When I first really started learning about IBS in general, I became very interested in the management of the illness. Just to keep it simple, I have simply adjusted my plan of attack to include the IBS-A aspect. As much as many treatments contradict themselves with regards to these two different types of issues, there are many that work for both. I find that fiber, stretching, yoga, therapy, meditation and sensory therapy all help with both problems. Yoga, in particular, helps an awful lot with constipation. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a mainstay in my wellness regimen. Diet remains mostly the same with some obvious tweaks when shifting from one IBS type to the other. These are simple thoughts and suggestions and they don’t ‘fix’ the problem. But as we’ve discussed before, there is no ‘fix.’ We can only practice management and make sure our head is screwed on straight. Just my take. Thanks for listening.

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

Comments

  • Dors
    3 months ago

    Great article. Thank you for writing it and sharing. I’ve had the IBS-D since I was in my teens and it usually came with stress. I really didn’t pay that much attention. But it wasn’t connected with urgency either. I did have a problem if I couldn’t find a bathroom within 5 minutes. I later years I have no time now. That’s a big problem. I ended up taking early retirement because I was so afraid of the mess and embarrassment that many times I just didn’t even try to leave the house. And I had so many accidents at work it just got to be too much. This bout I’m going through right now is both IBS-D and IBS-C at the same time. Within hours back and forth. And yes the C hurts a lot worse in stomach pain. And I was also worried that it lasted so long this time. It’s a week today. I dealt with the IBS-D in these last months by taking Imodium ahead of time if I had an appointment have noticed it doesn’t work very well if the problem is in progress so a lot of times I have to cancel appointments too. I am very grateful that I was close to retirement age when the issues all escalated. The financial stress is greater these days in particular since I have a 34 year old son that has Syringomyelia can’t work because of the pain and I share my Social Security income with him so he can contribute to his girlfriends household since he lives with her. And I stress over his health constantly and there is nothing that can be done for him, the disease has no cure. It could all be worse though so I try and concentrate on the good things in life. I’m really glad to have found this support group and am always looking forward to the next issue.

  • tmholland moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hey @dors,

    Thank you and you are very welcome. I have to say that I admire your openness about your struggles (which have been significant). It does sound like you really try to see the good in life, which is the best thing any of us can do for ourselves. Keep doing what you are doing and hang in there. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • Mari4
    3 months ago

    Indeed I relate well. On some level I prefer diarrhea, assuming I have a choice, and any fiber, even the best special-for-IBS fiber bloats me up horribly. Today I was in my usual stomach pain, stressed and depressed, and I randomly caught some standup on the net. The laughing took away the pain. It was enlightening to say the least. So comedy for my IBS is one remedy I’ll stick to!

  • ldonne
    3 months ago

    Hi @kelly-dabel,
    Thank you for the reply. The bottle saids with breakfast and dinner. I’ve been taking 1 capsule right after i finish dinner. Maybe I will try taking it when I’m eating.

  • JudyStaed
    3 months ago

    First let me say that I am so sorry you suffer with this monster. When I read your article I thought…finally I am seeing what I personally deal with on a daily basis. I am continually in either my diarrhea or constipation field. As I grow older there is no break from either. Also, I am well aware of trigger foods but at this point in my life it is food in general that bothers me. From my first bite of food in the morning I have distress all through my digestive process. I want to add another aspect of my suffering in hopes that it can help someone else. I get terrible bloat and trapped gas. At times it will ride up into my chest. The chest has a myriad of nerves running through it and the pain can be beyond words. Please, if any of you suffer with this at times try activated charcoal pills…no capsules. You have to chew the black ugly things but they can bring pretty fast relief. Also, please never eat truly hot food. It can cause immediate spasms on the colon which then can lead to a colon attack of nasty diarrhea. I always eat my food warm but never hot. I don’t know from day to day which field I will be in…diarrhea…constipation. For this reason I hate to make plans but life must be lived. Recently I was invited to a very upscale wedding. I was all gussied up with a beautiful new dress but went to that wedding with fear in my heart. I hardly ate at all that day fearing a colon attack. I got through the day and got the attack at 1:30 in the morning when I was home again. I sat on the toilet in the pain thanking God for bringing me through that day. My advice to any suffering as I do is to find the things that really give you pleasure…that uplift the soul…live in them 100% while you are experiencing them because in your heart you know that the suffering will come again. I will finish this by saying that one of the HARDEST things I suffer from my condition is that at times it makes me feel so isolated. No one truly understands the constant misery of this without experiencing it. When I read the articles on IBS.net my heart breaks for those who suffer as I do but it also at times soothes the feelings of being so alone.

  • tmholland moderator author
    3 months ago

    @judystaed,

    Thank you and I’m glad you could relate to the story. I couldn’t agree more that we all have to do something for ourselves to help uplift our soul. This is a beautiful sentiment. I also agree that isolation can be one of the most difficult thing to deal with in relation to this illness. Thank you again for you willingness to share and know you have support here on this site. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • Kittymom1026
    3 months ago

    I have both too and had a really severe bout of the D part yesterday. The pain was horrible and I spent the day between the bed and the bathroom. It was triggered by a single piece of toast with blackberry jam on it. I have eaten that before with no problem.
    I have been stressed out really bad this past week or so because my kitty almost died from a blockage in his bladder and had to stay 3 days at the emergency clinic. He also had crystals in his urine and can now only eat the prescription food for such a thing. Since I have more than one kitty, they now all have to eat it too. I also have to give him an antibiotic twice a day and that’s a challenge all on it’s own. So I think the stress finally caught up to me yesterday. I’m afraid to eat anything today because of it.
    Getting back to the topic, both are equally bad for me but in different ways. For the C part, I take Miralax and CitruCel. When I get the D part, I have to just let it run it’s course because if I don’t, it gets even more painful for some reason.
    I have almost completely stopped going to restaurants because I never know what will trigger it and it can happen as soon as half way through a meal. Now I only get take out.

  • JudyStaed
    3 months ago

    Hi Kittymom, I too have pets and realize the stress when one of them becomes ill. You have gone through a lot. The point I want to make here is that I find that stress will definitely exacerbate my digestive issues. Currently, I myself, am going through a very stressful time and I am swinging back and forth between constipation and diarrhea. I feel discomfort and at times dare I say agony with this condition. I always wear pantie liners and thankfully I do because when I’m in my diarrhea mode I can’t always control when some will just slip out. One more thing I wanted to say here is that with me although I am aware of trigger foods ALL food can bother me at times. It’s just the digestive process in general. I will not eat in a restaurant and like you I only get take-out now. Just know you do not suffer alone. Many of us out here know what you are going through. I do hope your dear sweet kitty will be all better soon.

  • Kelly Dabel, RD moderator
    3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your story Kittymom1026. We appreciate you sharing your strategies and what helps you feel better. Wishing you and your sweet kitty relief ahead. Best, Kelly, Irritablebowelsyndrome.net Team member

  • ldonne
    3 months ago

    Hi@babsmurdock,
    I’m just wondering when during the day probiotics are best to take. I’m on progressive HCP 30.
    when do you take yours?

  • Kelly Dabel, RD moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Idonne, Typically probiotics are best taken either before a meal or with your meal. Each probiotic brand may differ slightly, so check the instruction label and as always, talk to your doctor about their recommendations specific for you and your medical history before starting anything new. Hope that helps! Best, Kelly, Irritablebowelsyndrome.net Team member

  • babsmurdock
    3 months ago

    I have the same condition that you do. For a long time I dealt with constipation issues more than anything else. It even put me in the ER on more than one occasion because the pain was so bad. I eventually tried both Linzess and Trulance hoping to on top of the pain and wishing for regular bowel movements. Instead, I had diarrhea pretty much all the time.
    I didn’t realize that this was my IBS reacting until I read about it on another group page.
    I stopped taking the Trulance and have been working with my gastroenterologist ever since on trying to manage my IBS-A.
    It’s very hard and can be painful. I take Heather’s Tummy Care Acacia senegal tummy fiber twice a day, stool softeners, dicyclomine, and Align Probiotic to manage my IBS-A.

  • Kelly Dabel, RD moderator
    3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your experience babasmurdock. Glad to hear that you have found some relief and that you are working with a Gastroenterologist. We appreciate you sharing and being part of our community. Wishing you continued relief ahead. Best, Kelly, Irritablebowelsyndrome.net Team member

  • bhspilot67
    3 months ago

    For me, the constipation is definitely worse than the diarrhea. At least, while very uncomfortable, things are moving with the diarrhea. When I am constipated, all I want to do is lock myself in the bathroom and sit on the toilet until I get relief. Also when I am constipated, my abdomen is as hard as a rock and I am sluggish and tired, with the only places I want to be is in bed or in the bathroom. The IBS-A is the worst.

  • HessP moderator
    3 months ago

    So relateable, @bhspilot67! I mainly deal with IBS-D, but occasionally constipation will kick in and it feels so much more painful at times simply because the pain won’t go away or subside for the time being. I also feel very sluggish and tired when this happens because with constipation, at least for me, also comes bloating and distension. Do you take any kind of remedy for your symptoms? Please know you are not alone and thank you so much for sharing with us. Wishing you much strength and sending positive vibes your way to help with the tough days. Keep up the great fight! – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

  • Lucy33
    3 months ago

    I have suffered from both types for many years. I also compete in dog obedience trials and used to show horses, which makes IBS quite annoying.
    For me, probiotics really helped the constipation and I eat a high fiber diet while avoiding trigger foods ( raw vegetables and high fat, especially fried foods, are the worst.)
    The night before a competition, I am very careful of what I eat and then I do not eat until after my first class of the morning. I also take Pepto Bismol the night before and that morning, it doesn’t totally solve the problem, but it helps.
    I have delt with this for 30 years. The most important thing is not to let it stop you from living. Also, listen to your body. People will try to tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat but we all have different triggers. I am fine with gluten. I am NOT fine with fat or raw veggies. Apples and pears however, don’t bother me at all.
    Finally, exercise is essential. Helps the gut and burns off anxiety.
    What works for me might not work for most. But don’t give up. You can manage.

  • tmholland moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thank you @Lucy33, your comments are very insightful and appreciated. Your experience sounds quite similar to mine. You’re right we all seem to have our own ‘version’ of this illness. I hope you are well today. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • kukana6
    3 months ago

    What is IBS-A?

  • tmholland moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hi @kukana6,

    IBS-A refers to IBS cases which alternate between diarrhea and constipation. From the people I’ve spoken with the experience may vary from person to person. Thank you for your question. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • Holly5757
    3 months ago

    I have IBS-A also. Sometimes. most of the time, it is within the same bowel movement! The pain afterwards is what I have issues with. I end up with nausea, belly pain, I call it a grungy belly feeling. I never know what to eat as something could be ok today and put me in a flare up tomorrow. I have tried CBD oil, acupuncture, FODMAP to some degree, but it seems just waiting out the pain, taking Bentyl (dicyclomine) and not eating are the only way for me to “get over” it. I usually end up with these episodes once a week or so.
    I think the diarrhea is much worse than the constipation for me.

  • tmholland moderator author
    3 months ago

    Hi @holly5757,

    Thank you for sharing. It is quite painful, isn’t it. I find it amazing how many different forms IBS takes on and how difficult it is to stop them. Hopefully, as your search for wellness continues you find something to make it all that much easier. It’s a never-ending battle, but sometimes you have some long-term successes. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team.

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