Diarrhoea and IBS, is it affecting your life? Learn how to take control

Diarrhoea is defined as the passage of 3 or more watery, loose stools accompanied by an excessive loss of fluid and electrolytes, and is a common complaint.

Whilst diarrhoea can present without any other symptoms, it is often associated with symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating and is thought to affect up to one third of people with IBS. This article discusses some self help strategies if IBS-D is impacting on your quality of life. Firstly lets consider how IBS-D/IBS-Diarrhoea is diagnosed. Initially IBS is diagnosed using the ROME IV guidelines and then to be considered to have IBS-D, 25% or more of your bowel movements must be type 6 or 7 on the Bristol Stool Chart and less than 25% of the time you will experience Type 1 or 2 stools (associated with constipation). Diarrhoea can affect most of us at one point in our lives, however, persistent diarrhoea can be a symptom of a more chronic condition such as Inflammatory bowel disease, Coeliac disease, Diverticular Disease, malabsorption or bowel cancer; and therefore if you are suffering with the any of the following "red flags" alongside diarrhoea please contact your GP: blood in stool, persistent vomiting, unintentional weight loss, painless, watery, high-volume diarrhoea and nocturnal diarrhoea. If you feel you meet the criteria for IBS-D read on to learn how you can help control your symptoms.

Dietary changes

Dietary changes can help alleviate short term symptoms. You might already be aware of your dietary triggers but common ones can include: caffeine, alcohol, spicy or fatty foods, sweeteners such as Sorbitol, Xylitol and a high fruit intake.


A second line approach is a low fodmap diet which is a short term restrictive diet that should not be followed for more than 8 weeks. This should always be done with the support of a fodmap trained dietitian.


Nicotine is also known to stimulate gut function and whilst you are suffering with diarrhoea it would be beneficial to reduce your overall fibre intake, especially insoluble fibre such as wheat bran.


Diarrhoea can quickly cause dehydration and therefore ensure you are drinking adequate fluids (aiming for between 1.5-3 litres daily), and you might want to include some oral rehydration solutions.


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There are some over the counter treatments you can purchase or equally your GP might prescribe you some medication. Examples of suitable medication to help alleviate IBS and diarrhoea include:

  • Peppermint oil has been shown to help global IBS symptoms including diarrhoea, stomach cramps and bloating.  Examples include Peptac and Colpermin
  • Anti spasmodics such as Buscopan or Mebeverine which can help reduce muscle cramps
  • Anti diarrhoeal e.g. Imodium to reduce diarrhoea
  • Anti depressants can relieve depression and evidence also supports their use in reducing abdominal pain
  • Soluble fibre supplements such as Psyllium husk or linseeds can help add bulk and shape to loose stool motions
  • Specific strains of probiotics have been shown to help improve IBS symptoms including diarrhoea
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Mental health

It is widely accepted that stress and anxiety can exacerbate Irritable bowel syndrome and evidence suggests lifestyle strategies including yoga, meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy can all help improve IBS-D and therefore improve your quality of life.


The IBS Network is a national charity supporting people living with irritable bowel syndrome. They have produced a wide range of information on all aspects of IBS. Click here for more information


Alongside self -help resources the IBS Network have created a “Can’t wait” card

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For further reading around IBS check out this article: Do I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? How can I get it diagnosed?

If you would like further guidance and support on managing your IBS get in touch with me on 07881 805770 or complete this form



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