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Living Positively with IBS-M

CDHF

Written by: CDHF

Updated: December 1st, 2022

What is IBS-M?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gut disorder that affects the lower portion of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the small and large intestines. There is nothing structurally wrong with the gut, but rather, there’s something wrong with how the gut moves and senses digestion. This can lead to symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits like constipation, diarrhea, or both.

Subtypes of IBS are recognized by the Rome IV criteria based on the person’s reported predominant bowel habit, when not on medications, as follows:

bristol stool chart for ibs

IBS-M (the M stands for ‘mixed’) is a subtype when a person with IBS suffers from alternating diarrhea and constipation.  Nearly everyone has suffered from diarrhea or constipation at one point or another, however, if these are constant, recurring problems, you may suffer from IBS-M. Especially, if these problems are paired with other symptoms, such as bloating, cramping and abdominal pain.

People who suffer from IBS-M can switch from constipation to diarrhea, often very quickly, and tend to suffer more stomach pain than someone who suffers from IBS-D (diarrhea) or IBS-C (constipation).

Possible Causes of IBS-M

The underlying cause of IBS is still unclear and there is no diagnostic disease markers for IBS. However, some potential factors include things like food sensitivities, a disruption in the brain-gut connection, genetics, stress, infections, or an unbalanced microbiota.

How is IBS-M Diagnosed?

Your physician will first conduct a careful review your medical history and a physical examination. Utilizing IBS diagnostic algorithms, such as the Rome Foundation’s Diagnostic Criteria for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and excluding any “red flags” suggesting other disorders, your physician will then establish a diagnosis of IBS based on your symptoms.

Doctors can make the diagnosis with a high degree of certainty, based on experience with treating IBS. Tests that may be required include to rule out other digestive conditions include: 

How is IBS-M Treated?

Often diet and lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on gut health. Getting exercise and participating in managing stress through activities such as yoga or meditation can have a huge impact on a patient’s quality of life.

Many IBS patients of all types have benefited from experimenting with a low FODMAP diet. The low FODMAP diet is one of the most well-researched diets that shows significant symptom improvement for ~50-80% of those with IBS. 1 FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that are either poorly absorbed in the intestine, or that ferment in the gut, leading to digestive distress. It involves significantly reducing intake of these carbohydrates for a short period of time, followed by strategic reintroduction to see which FODMAPs trigger which IBS symptoms. If you are thinking of trying this elimination diet, CDHF recommends working alongside a registered dietitian to help you guide you through it.

Your doctor may also recommend prescription or over the counter products if your IBS symptoms are severe and if lifestyle and dietary strategies have not helped. Typically, medications are targeted at the dominant symptom – diarrhea, constipation or pain.

Over the Counter (OTC) therapies are also available such as peppermint oil capsules, probiotics, and fibre, among other ways to manage your IBS.

Looking for a way to track your IBS symptoms? Download CDHF’s myIBS app. The app allows you to digitally journal your symptoms, poop, food, sleep, stress and more, to help you better understand and manage your IBS. 


References:

  1. Altobelli, E., Del Negro, V., Angeletti, P. M., & Latella, G. (2017). Low-FODMAP Diet Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients9(9), 940. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9090940

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