IBS-C can cause symptoms like bloating, gas, or difficulty with regular bowel movements. While there’s no cure, it may be treated with dietary changes, medications, and lifestyle remedies.

Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) is a common chronic (long-term) gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. It causes:

  • frequent bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • infrequent stools that are hard to pass

While not life threatening, IBS-C can be extremely uncomfortable and interfere with your day-to-day activities.

There’s no cure, so treatment for IBS-C relies heavily on lifestyle and dietary changes, along with the help of medications that target your symptoms.

If you suspect you might have IBS-C, a doctor can perform tests and diagnose the condition. Keep reading to learn more about the typical signs and symptoms of IBS-C and what you can do to relieve them.

IBS itself is a relatively common digestive disorder that affects an estimated 7 to 21 percent of people in the United States.

IBS-C is just one type of IBS. Other types include:

While all types of IBS can cause changes in bowel movements along with abdominal pain, there are more distinct symptoms if you have IBS-C.

Some of the more common signs and symptoms of IBS-C include:

  • painful bloating
  • excessive gas
  • feeling like there’s a rock or a block in your stomach
  • infrequent bowel movements (less than three per week)
  • more than a quarter of your stools are hard or lumpy
  • feeling like your bowel can’t pass stools completely

When you do have a bowel movement with IBS-C, your bloating and pain may go away temporarily. However, these symptoms tend to come back.

What makes IBS-C different from regular constipation is that it causes significant bloating and pain that you likely would not have if you were constipated. IBS does notcause bloody stools or unintentional weight loss.

While IBS-C is common, the exact cause is still unknown. It may be genetic, so if you have a family member with IBS, your individual risk may be higher.

IBS also tends to be more common in people under age 50, with females being twice as likely to develop it.

IBS may lead to underlying inflammation in the GI tract, which also might be related to previous bacterial infections, as well as changes in your immune system.

Another possibility is that your gut-brain relationship may be altered, so your brain is not giving the right signals to regulate intestinal movements.

IBS may also be seen in people with other conditions, such as:

There’s no single test to determine whether you have IBS-C. IBS also isn’t diagnosed with imaging tests or blood work, although these tools may be used to rule out other conditions.

Instead, a doctor will diagnose your condition primarily based on your symptom history.

It’s important to keep track of your symptoms of constipation, along with the timing and severity of abdominal pain and bloating. These are key characteristics that differentiate IBS-C from regular constipation.

A physical exam can also help a doctor diagnose IBS-C. This condition can often cause visible abdominal bloating. The doctor may also gently press against your abdomen to gauge associated pain.

Also, IBS may be diagnosed if you first experienced symptoms at least 6 months ago and if you’ve had symptoms at least once a week over the last 3 months.

Treatment for IBS-C focuses on reducing your symptoms and improving your overall quality of life. While IBS can’t be cured, treatments can help you feel less bloating and pain, along with improved bowel movement patterns.


A doctor will likely recommend over-the-counter (OTC) constipation treatments first. Options may include:

Certain “detox” teas may also have similar laxative effects that you can discuss with a doctor. The idea is that softening your stools and increasing your bowel movements may improve other symptoms of discomfort.

Products with peppermint oil may also be helpful for some individuals.

If OTC options don’t work, you may need a prescription medication. Antispasmodics are used to help relax your GI tract and reduce gut spasms.

Another option is a new class of medications called prosecretory agents. These help with IBS-C by softening stools in your intestines. You may find your bowel movements are frequent and easier to pass.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressants that may help improve brain-gut interactions. These may also help improve secondary symptoms of IBS-C, such as anxiety and depression.

Probiotics for IBS-C

Additionally, a doctor may recommend a probiotic supplement along with medication and dietary changes.

While researchers are still working to understand the exact effects of probiotics on IBS-C, it’s thought that these live microorganisms may support your gut by supplying it with “good” bacteria. The most common forms of bacteria you may find on probiotic product labels include Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, probiotics may also:

While the effects on IBS aren’t as clear, a 2020 review of studies suggests that these supplements mayimprove stool frequency and consistency in people with IBS-C, while other researchers note that probiotics may be more helpful with diarrhea.

Talk with a doctor before taking probiotics for IBS-C. If they think these supplements may help your condition, they can also offer product and dosage recommendations.

Lifestyle remedies

Lifestyle remedies can go a long way in supporting medical approaches to IBS-C treatment.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), getting enough sleep and exercising regularly can help:

  • regulate bowel movements
  • decrease stress
  • improve any underlying inflammation

Before trying fiber supplements for IBS-C, you may consider increasing soluble fiber in your diet first. Sources of soluble fiber can include:

  • oats
  • barley
  • flax

You may also consider taking a food sensitivity test or keeping a food journal.

It’s estimated that between 70 and 84 percent of people with IBS may experience worsening symptoms related to certain foods.

For these reasons, a doctor may recommend that you do the following:

  • avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye
  • eat more fiber, particularly soluble fiber
  • avoid foods high in FODMAPs, which are certain carbohydrates that can be hard to digest

If you want a more structured eating plan for IBS, you may want to consider the low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

The purpose of the low FODMAP diet is to reduce the number of certain carbohydrates that may trigger GI upset.

With a low FODMAP diet, your doctor will ask you to remove certain foods from your eating plan for around 4 to 6 weeks. You will then add them back one at a time to determine if any are triggers for your IBS-C symptoms.

High FODMAP foods to avoid include:

  • sweeteners, such as fructose, honey, corn syrups
  • certain fruits, such as apples, apricots, avocados, and melons
  • lactose, which is found in milk
  • wheat
  • garlic and onions
  • beans and legumes

Sometimes, IBS-C may be confused with congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (CSID). This is also known as sucrose intolerance.

CSID is a rare genetic condition marked by a lack of digestive enzymes called sucrase and isomaltase. These are necessary to help your body digest sucrose, which is table sugar.

Sugar may be one trigger for IBS-C symptoms, but this is a separate condition from CSID. IBS itself is not caused by the lack of digestive enzymes seen in CSID. Sometimes, CSID may be mistakenly diagnosed as IBS initially.

CSID is thought to be caused by genetic factors as well as your overall gut motility, which is how food moves through your GI tract. Diagnosis involves:

  • genetic testing
  • a sucrose breath test
  • possibly an endoscopic biopsy

Both CSID and IBS-C may cause bloating and abdominal pain. What sets CSID apart is that it can cause diarrhea, nausea, and acid reflux, especially right after you consume table sugar.

What’s the difference between IBS-C and chronic functional constipation?

IBS-C and chronic functional constipation (FC) share similar symptoms, such as difficulty passing regular stools. However, they also share key differences.

In particular, researchers note that IBS-C tends to cause more abdominal pain and distention, as well as bloating, heartburn, and depression. Chronic FC, on the other hand, tends to be associated with poorer sleep quality.

Can you have IBS-C and CSID?

Yes. While IBS-C and CSID are two separate conditions, it is possible to have both this type of IBS as well as a rare sucrose intolerance. However, a doctor will need to perform separate diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of both.

One 2018 study also suggests that having CSID could increase your risk of developing IBS, though most cases were classified as IBS-D.

Is there a cure for IBS-C?

There’s currently no cure for IBS-C, but treatments may help you manage your symptoms and increase the number of stools you pass.

While the exact treatment plan may vary between people, a doctor may recommend a combination of dietary changes, supplements such as probiotics, and medications.

IBS-C is one of the most common types of irritable bowel syndrome, a common gastrointestinal disorder.

It’s important to keep track of your symptoms — including bowel movement frequency — to help a doctor diagnose this condition.

IBS is best managed by changes in lifestyle and diet, although medications can help, too.

Call a doctor right away if you notice any unusual symptoms. Unexpected weight loss, bloody stools, and vomiting may be related to a condition more serious than IBS-C.