IBS Diarrhea

There is a lot of good information online from sites such as webmd.com about how to get relief from diarrhea. However often the info is written by people who don’t actually suffer from it and as a sufferer of IBS diarrhea I wanted to write down my own experiences on how to tackle it.

IBS Diarrhea – is it different?

Unless you get diarrhea as one of your symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome then you probably think that its no different from an ordinary stomach bug. Let me tell you – it is not the same. A stomach bug will eventually go and then it is over and done with and you carry on with your life.

Imagine a situation whereby you never know when you might suddenly get diarrhea – you feel fine and then suddenly out of nowhere you desperately need the loo. Is this you? It was certainly me and still is if I get a bad bout of IBS but fortunately it happens rarely now.

Typical Symptoms

Diarrhea means having loose stools usually because the food passes through the bowel too quickly and so the water isn’t absorbed. You might get abdominal cramps or discomfort where the muscles are contracting or there might be no pain at all. IBS with diarrhea usually occurs due to over sensitive bowel muscles or some other form of irritation in the gut. I would sometimes have cramps and sometimes not but usually it would be accompanied by a real urgency to go and therefore over time I developed a fear of going out where I didn’t know where the toilet was or being in a confined space where it was noticeable if I had to leave suddenly to go to the bathroom. I think this is one of the biggest issues facing those of us with diarrhea IBS symptoms as it can steadily grow into a phobia or panic attack situation. Even though I got my diarrhea under control I still get anxious about social situations.

The Start of My Diet Plan

Elsewhere I have mentioned that the first step to taking control of my IBS was reading the book “No More IBS” by Maryon Stewart & Dr Alan Stewart. In the middle of the book there is a section that you fill out detailing your symptoms and toilet behaviour. Here is one of the questions and my answer:

How many times do you have a bowel movement in the average week?
1-2 (severe constipation)
3-5 (constipation)
6-13 (normal frequency)
14-21 (slight diarrhoea)
22 or more (diarrhea) – 30

I was going on average 30 times a week – that’s about 4-5 times a day. Not only was I loosing weight but I was not able to absorb the necessary nutrients from my food and so became pale and unhealthy.

After following this book through I was going to the toilet just 15 times a week on average – I had halved it just by changing my diet. For me I still needed other ways of controlling it but it made a huge difference. You might find it enough just to change your diet.

Foods to Avoid if you have Diarrhea

Milk

It is well known that milk can cause bowel problems due to allergy. Some people react to the protein in milk and this causes abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Others it is the sugar lactose that can not be digested properly and acts like a laxative.  If you notice that you get diarrhea within up to an hour of consuming milk then it would be a good idea to get tested for lactose intolerance. If milk is a problem then dairy products as a whole will need to be avoided. One thing to note though is that bio yogurt contains bacteria that breaks down lactose and so you may be able to eat this with no side effects. The same goes for hard cheese although to a lesser degree.

Wheat and Grains

Wheat and other gluten containing foods (oats, barley, rye, etc.) can aggravate the gut in people with a sensitive or irritable bowel.

Interesting Note
Recent studies show that rice can help in the recovery of diarrhea

Little and Often

Try eating smaller portions more regularly throughout the day. Having a big meal in one go can really aggravate your gut and stimulate contractions. If I don’t eat often then I have real problems and my gut goes into spasm. If I eat too much then I will often have diarrhea fairly soon afterwards.

Coffee

I have found that ground coffee is a problem but instant is OK. Caffeine is a bowel stimulant and so can cause diarrhea and even decaffeinated can affect your gut.

Fats

If fat is not digested properly then it can lead to diarrhea. However there are some good fats which slow down the rate at which food travels through the gut. Some of these include olive oil and some nut oils. This is especially interesting for me as I can not tolerate rapeseed oil or very fatty lamb.

Fruit

The best way to eat fruit is to have a little at a time – this includes fruit juices as well.

Spicy Food

Some spicy food can have a laxative effect by stimulating the bowel. However not everyone responds in the same though so test it out on yourself to see how you react if at all.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a strange one. For me red wine is a no no. However for a friend of mine it is rose wine that causes diarrhea! Generally you should be fine if you keep the amount consumed down.

Artificial Sweeteners

Sorbitol is a sweetener often used in sweets. It can not be digested and so passes through your gut intact. Once in the large intestine is can behave like a laxative and attract water thus causing loose stools.

Cigarettes

If you smoke then you probably know that cigarettes stimulate bowel contractions which is why people often put on weight when they give up.

The foods above are a general guideline to follow first if you are experiencing IBS diarrhea. However I would recommend seeing a dietitian and going through a proper elimination diet to find the exact foods that you are sensitive to.

Posted in: IBS Symptoms

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