IBS with constipation – how to reduce symptoms
In my last blog I discussed ways to reduce IBS with diarrhoea. In this blog, I will discuss ways to reduce IBS with constipation (IBS-C). Constipation occurs when you do not poo enough (less than three times in a week). The stools (poo) feel hard and are difficult to pass. In addition, it can feel like you are unable to completely empty your bowels.
IBS with constipation is a type of IBS where sufferers experience abdominal discomfort, bloating and constipation. For some people, abdominal pain improves after having a poo. For many others, the pain is ongoing. To read how IBS with constipation is diagnosed read my blog ‘How to Deal with IBS’.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS. The treatment goal is to improve bowel function and abdominal discomfort. This is possible with changes to your diet, lifestyle and medication.
How to reduce IBS with constipation?
- Increase fiber: If you are regularly constipated, this could indicate that you are not consuming enough fiber in your diet. IBS with constipation improves when fiber is added to the diet. Fiber is found in many foods (bran, cereals, vegetables, fruit). It adds bulk to stools and makes them easier to pass. Although fiber reduces constipation, some types of fiber can actually make abdominal pain and bloating worse.
- Try eating a kiwi and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed every day (add to porridge, cereal, soups, casseroles) for a week. These foods contain soluble fiber. This type of fiber improves IBS with constipation as it gels and softens stools. Monitor your symptoms and if you see improvements after a week, you will know that this should be continued!
- Keep a food and symptom diary to identify trigger foods with your dietitian. This helps identify the foods that cause your IBS with constipation.
- Peppermint oil is an effective treatment for IBS with constipation. It has anti-spasmodic properties. This means that the bowel muscles relax, and stools are more easily pushed out.
- Fluid: aim to drink 8-10 glasses of fluid per day. Fluid increases the water content in the gut. This can help soften stools and stimulate bowel movements. Ultimately, it easier for stools to pass out of the body when you drink enough water.
- Regular exercise helps manage IBS with constipation. Low to moderate intensity exercise like walking, yoga and leisurely swimming gets the gut moving. Being more active is a great way to deal with constipation. Even if you do not suffer from constipation, exercise reduces symptoms of IBS in general.
High intensity exercise like running or CrossFit is best avoided as it can cause more discomfort than relief.
For more tips on ways to relieve IBS with constipation through rest, read my blog ‘IBS and stress – try these 3 practical tips’ !
Laxatives and stool softeners (ie, Senna) can be taken when lifestyle and dietary modifications do not relieve IBS with constipation. These medications are available from pharmacists. Some are prescribed by your GP. They reduce constipation. However, there is often very little effect on IBS symptoms (bloating, pain). Speak to your pharmacist or GP for more advice on medications to relieve constipation.
If you experience any of the following, please contact your GP as this could indicate another medical condition.
- Blood in stools
- Unintentional weight loss
- Family history of bowel cancer, celiac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBS relief program
IBS coaching offers an IBS relief program in English. The IBS relief program consists of 5 main pillars, namely: awareness, eating, exercising, energy and resting. With this complete program you’ll discover how you can get rid of your stomach / abdominal complaints, with lasting results, in a way that suits you personally. We always treat everyone individually, focusing on you, your personal situation and your specific complaints. This is the only program you need to regain control over your abdominal complaints.
If you would like to find out more about Janna Koopman’s work as an IBS dietitian and coach, leave a comment below. Do you want more personalized advice? Please contact Janna for a free consultation.