There are three main types of irritable bowel syndrome – IBS with constipation (IBS-C), IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), and IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M), otherwise known as alternating constipation and diarrhea (IBS-A). Each of these types are based on different patterns of bowel movements and are accompanied by different symptoms. Generally speaking, IBS-C is characterized by hard or lumpy stools, IBS-D is characterized by loose or watery stools, and IBS-M is characterized by a combination of the two.
IBS-C, or IBS with constipation, is characterized by hard or lumpy stools at least 25 percent of the time, and loose or watery stools less than 25 percent of the time. They account for up to 33 percent of cases and are more common in women, with the most bothersome symptoms being abdominal pain, gas and bloating, infrequent stools, and straining. People who suffer from IBS with constipation may find it difficult to move their bowels, may move their bowels less often, or may have the urge to go but find that they are not able to.
IBS-D, or IBS with diarrhea, is characterized by loose or watery stools at least 25 percent of the time, and hard or lumpy stools less than 25 percent of the time. They account for up to 33 percent of cases and are more common in men, with the most bothersome symptoms being abdominal pain or discomfort and sudden urges to have bowel movements. Those who suffer from IBS with diarrhea may often have loose stools, may feel the urge or need to move their bowels, or may find that they have cramps or belly pain more than the average person.
IBS-M, or IBS with mixed bowel habits, is characterized by hard or lumpy stools at least 25 percent of the time, as well as loose or watery stools at least 25 percent of the time. This type of IBS accounts for up to 33 percent to 50 percent of cases. For people who have IBS with mixed bowel habits, or alternating constipation and diarrhea, they may have a combination of symptoms from both IBS-C and IBS-D.
In addition to these three types of IBS, some people will also refer to post-infectious IBS and post-diverticulitis IBS. Post-infectious IBS is used in situations where IBS symptoms occur after an intestinal infection, and is therefore usually triggered by something else. Post-diverticulitis IBS is used when IBS symptoms appear after symptoms of diverticulitis, a digestive condition that affects the large intestine and can increase the risk for IBS. Symptoms of diverticulitis are episodic and short in duration, and may include severe left-sided abdominal pain, fever and nausea, changes in bowel movements, and a tender inflammatory mass in the lower left portion of the abdominal region.
IBS sufferers will experience their condition differently depending on the type that they have and the symptoms which they must live with. Since lifestyle plays a huge role in managing all types of IBS, the best way to treat the condition is to implement a number of lifestyle changes. Some of these include eating several small meals throughout the day, reducing levels of stress and anxiety, getting enough sleep and exercise, incorporating daily meditation, trying different types of therapy, and visiting a dietitian to discuss meal plans.