Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) is a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that affects your large intestine. For people with IBS-C, this condition causes constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating.
An IBS-C diagnosis requires that you experience symptoms, specifically constipation, for at least three months.
IBS-C is quite common. Almost 20 percent of adults in the U.S., or about 13 million, have IBS-C.
Chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) is more common than IBS-C. It affects 35 million American adults.
The symptoms for CIC are very similar to those for IBS-C. However, people with CIC don’t experience the wide array of GI-related symptoms, such as abdominal pain and discomfort. The primary and almost only symptom for this condition is constipation.
In addition, the frequency of constipation is lower for this diagnosis. CIC may be diagnosed if you’re having fewer than three bowel movements per week for several weeks.
Treatments for IBS-C and CIC
Treatment for both IBS-C and CIC depend greatly on the severity of your signs and symptoms. For example, some people may be able to control their issues by making lifestyle changes, reducing stress, and adjusting their diet. Others may need more aggressive treatment, which could include medication and a major overhaul of their diet.
IBS-C treatments include:
Dietary changes: Eliminating foods that may increase symptoms of IBS is a smart first move. This means you may want to cut back on carbonated beverages, high-fiber vegetables, and some grains. However, this doesn’t mean you should eliminate all fiber from your diet. Instead, you need to be smart about how much you eat and what type.
Supplements: Nonprescription fiber supplements may help add bulk to your stool to keep your bowel movements more regular and make them easier to pass. Fiber from food is helpful. But high-fiber foods, such as broccoli and cabbage, can also cause gas and bloating. Fiber supplements are less likely to do that.
Prescription medication: Lubiprostone (Amitiza) works to increase the amount of fluid secreted by your small intestine. With this extra fluid, your body may be able to pass stool more easily. Currently, this medication is only approved for use in women age 18 and older.
CIC treatments include:
Dietary changes: Like IBS-C, you may benefit from eating more fiber. But you should add fiber slowly. Too much fiber may make constipation worse. Begin by eating more fruits and vegetables. Add in whole-grain sides, and eat legumes or beans instead of pasta. As you feel more comfortable and your body responds, you can slowly add more fiber until your bowel movements feel more regulated.
Drink more water: Your GI tract needs water to properly digest food and produce waste. Your intestines draw in fluid to make stool easier to pass. If you’re dehydrated or just not drinking enough, your stool may be hard and lumpy. That makes bowel movements difficult to pass.
Exercise more often: Exercise and physical activity are a natural expellant for the GI tract. Research suggests a sedentary lifestyle and insufficient exercise increase your risk for constipation. If you’re new to exercise, you may see improvements with small amounts of exercise. Walking as little as 10 to 20 minutes each day may be beneficial.
Complications of not treating IBS-C/CIC
Ignoring unusual symptoms isn’t at all uncommon for many people. Busy schedules, budget constraints, or issues with health insurance may keep you from seeking medical attention. For your health and well-being, find a way to get a diagnosis and treatment. A life with these symptoms can be uncomfortable — even miserable.
Finding a successful treatment for constipation is a smart idea for many reasons. It helps you regain a sense of control over your body, and it helps you improve your quality of life. Treatment for both IBS-C and CIC is usually very successful for most people. Here are some of the complications of not treating or undertreating your IBS-C or CIC.
Chronic constipation is one of the most common causes of hemorrhoids. The increased pressure from your stool can cause swelling in your veins. The veins may bulge outward into your rectum and anus. Swollen, inflamed veins around your rectum and anus can be uncomfortable, irritating, and even painful.
You may avoid certain foods for fear of causing constipation or triggering new symptoms. Avoiding foods means you could miss out on many vital nutrients. That can lead to malnutrition, or low levels of important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. It’s important to eat a varied diet, one rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. That’s the best way to guarantee you’re meeting your nutrition needs in the most natural way possible.
Lower quality of life
This is the area where IBS-C and CIC can have the greatest impact on your life. Not treating these conditions can lead to a lower quality of life. You may feel afraid to venture away from your routine, try new things, or go to new places. The worry that something new might trigger symptoms may keep you from living life the way you want or plan. This can lead to isolation, increased anxiety, and even depression.
Improve your quality of life
Think of the time and energy you invest in finding a diagnosis and treatment as an investment in your life. Creating a treatment plan for symptoms with a doctor can help restore a sense of control over what may feel like a helpless situation.
What’s more, as you find ways to better manage your symptoms and avoid triggers, you’ll be able to stop spending time on worrying about your condition. You can try out new dishes and head for new destinations. You can also rest easy knowing that you’re taking good care of your body, avoiding potential complications, and being proactive about your health for the future.