So, you have IBS-A with alternating constipation and diarrhea, the commonest form of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
This condition is not only common; it is one of the most extraordinary combinations of illness when you think about it, I mean constipation and diarrhea!!!
Most IBS sufferers have a degree of constipation or diarrhea although one form often predominates over the other.
But to have literally constipation and then diarrhea to varying degrees makes it a lose-lose situation to some people.
Why? Because in some ways, it is the hardest to treat as most treatments aimed at constipation can make the diarrhea worse and diarrhea treatment can make constipation worse!
Similar to other forms, IBS-A it can be associated with abdominal pain, wind, bloating, tiredness, nausea and fatigue.
Diagnosing your alternating IBS symptoms is fairly straight forward and encompassed in the Rome Criteria for diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Essentially, you have to have had symptoms for 3 months, with the alternating bowel habit associated with abdominal pain.
This isn't difficult to diagnose, but concerns are always raised if there is any family history of bowel cancer or if someone presents with the symptoms of new onset and are over the age of 50 years.
In these situations, the bowels should be investigated further and the best way of doing this is with a colonoscopy. Diverticular disease commonly causes similar symptoms too so it’s also worth considering, particularly when symptoms start later in life.
Treating your alternating diarrhea and constipation is difficult. Most treatment is aimed at symptom control. If your main symptom is diarrhea, medications that control the bowel frequency can sometimes help as well as minerals such as calcium.
If constipation is the predominant symptom, high fiber and laxatives may help some sufferers along with other treatments such as magnesium. You can read more about treatment options in the treatment section.
Amazingly though, the best treatment option for you doesn't involve medication at all, it involves your diet and lifestyle!
Yes, lifestyle changes are by far the most important IBS-A treatment. Lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking may all have an effect on symptoms.
We know a lot of people don't exercise enough, have a poor fluid intake and a poor diet too. Does this sound familiar to you? If so, take a look at the diet section and get the advice right for you.
Do you drink enough fluids? We know most people don’t realize how much fluid they actually do drink. Poor fluid intake or inappropriate fluid intake is common in alternating IBS. Excessive caffeine from too much tea or coffee can have a detrimental effect on your symptoms.
Avoiding caffeine can make a significant difference to some sufferers. Increasing fluid intake to at least 2 ½ to 3 litres a day makes the stool softer when you are constipated and makes going to the toilet easier to manage.
Water or juices are by far the best way of achieving this and measuring the quantity of fluid you are taking in can be very helpful too. Knowing how much you are really drinking might just surprise you - it might be less than you think!
The single most important way of managing your IBS-A symptoms is through diet. Diet has a significant influence on your bowel and a change is definitely proven to make a difference in up to 70% of cases.
I suspect you have already noticed certain foods make your Irritable Bowel symptoms worse, but to be sure of this keeping a food diary of everything you eat and drink can help.
Do this over a few weeks and you may see a pattern emerge when your symptoms are bad. I would strongly recommend that you look in the diet section to learn more about this and if you need any more help, you can always go to the IBS symptoms forum.
Share your IBS with other sufferers here as outlined.