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Does IBS Cause Constipation or Diarrhea?

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Hi friends! Have you ever wondered how a medical condition can cause opposite symptoms? For example, irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, can cause both constipation and diarrhea or both! IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders in the United States affecting 10-15% of individuals, and it is the most common reason for a referral to a gastroenterologist (Goodman, 2009; Irion 2010).


IBS can have different presentations and is often classified as one of three subtypes:

  • IBS-D—diarrhea is the main symptom

  • IBS-C—constipation is the main symptom

  • IBS-Mixed—symptoms fluctuate between diarrhea and constipation


The symptoms of IBS can cause a cascade of events that lead to pelvic floor dysfunction (Irion, 2010). Constipation and diarrhea can lead to anal incontinence (unable to hold in gas, poop, or both). IBS is also associated with chronic pelvic pain. Chronic pelvic pain can lead to incoordination and weakness of the pelvic floor muscles causing a variety of symptoms like urinary frequency and urgency, dyspareunia (pain with sex), and low back pain. IBS is also associated with sleep difficulties, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction which can indirectly impact pelvic floor health (Goodman, 2009).


Don’t feel hopeless! The prognosis is good for controlling symptoms of IBS through lifestyle changes (Goodman, 2009). Join the April IBS Warrior Virtual Summit to learn more from experts in many fields.


A pelvic floor physical therapist can be a great resource for managing chronic pelvic pain, constipation, and anal incontinence. They are highly trained in soft tissue work, breathing techniques, and central nervous system down training to help alleviate the stress response. You can ask your providers for a referral to a pelvic floor therapist or find one at www.mypfm.com/find-a-pt.



Ready to learn more about your pelvic health? Here are some helpful resources:


For providers, join our Ambassador Program to gain access to our many online courses, including:


Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT


References

  1. Goodman CC, Fuller KS. Pathology: implications for the physical therapist. 3rdedition.2009. Saunders Elsevier St. Louis, MO. P 850-861.

  2. Irion JM, Irion GL. Women’s Health in Physical Therapy. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2010.

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brad bret
brad bret
Apr 22

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