Suppose you have abdominal pain related to passing a stool, changes in how often you have a bowel movement, or changes in the appearance or form of your stool, such as firmer or runnier stools. In that case, you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder affecting the gut, including the large and small intestines. There are four different types of IBS.

types of ibs

IBS is considered a syndrome because it is characterized by a group of symptoms that commonly occur together. IBS also happens to be a functional gastrointestinal disorder which means there is a disturbance between the interactions of your gut and brain.

It is one of the most common gastrointestinal diseases and studies estimate that about 12% of people in the U.S. have the disorder. In this article, you’ll learn about the four different types of IBS and two additional subtypes of IBS that you can be diagnosed with.

What is IBS?

As a functional gastrointestinal disorder, IBS is caused in part by hypersensitivity in the gut to signals from the nervous system. Your brain sends electrical signals to control body processes, one of which is digestion. When your brain and gut struggle to interact, your gut becomes more sensitive to food which can cause abdominal pain.

Indeed, you could also experience constipation or diarrhea because your colon muscles contract more slowly or quickly. As a matter of fact, certain foods, medications, and even stress can trigger IBS.

IBS used to be called colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon, and spastic bowel. Don’t confuse IBS with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD includes the separate conditions of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These conditions have similar symptoms to IBS like abdominal pain and diarrhea but are actually quite different.

When you have IBD your immune system mistakenly reacts to normal gut bacteria as a threat. It attacks various parts of your gastrointestinal tract, leading to chronic inflammation. IBD can permanently damage your intestines or colon, whereas IBS does not cause long-term damage to your digestive tract.

Types of IBS Digestive Disorders

There are four different types of IBS: IBS-C, IBS-D, IBS-M, and IBS-U. Each of the types of IBS is named in relation to experience in bowel movements. There is also evidence that some people with IBS will alternate between them over time.

Further, there are two additional IBS subtypes that occur following diseases of the digestive tract: post-infectious IBS and post-diverticulitis IBS.

Here are the four types of IBS in more detail.


This refers to irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. As the name suggests, in this type of IBS you experience fewer bowel movements and strain when passing a stool. This is a common type of IBS with roughly 30% of people with IBS having this condition.

To be diagnosed with IBS-C, at least 25% of your stools are hard and lumpy and fewer than 25% have a loose consistency.

Symptoms of IBS-C include:

  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Lumpy or hard stools
  • Straining when passing a bowel movement
  • A feeling of blockage in the anus or rectum
  • Gas, bloating, and stomach pain

IBS-D gut health issues

IBS-D is the most common form of IBS and refers to IBS with diarrhea. It requires more than 25% of your stools to be loose and less than 25% to be hard and lumpy. When you have IBS-D, you feel like you need to go to the bathroom more regularly.

Symptoms of IBS-D include the following:

  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Loose stools
  • Excessive gas
  • Bloating and stomach pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feelings of urgency


IBS-M is one of the types of IBS where you experience both diarrhea and constipation. It’s referred to as IBS with mixed bowel movements. You can get constipated or have diarrhea because your bowels speed up or slow down at different times. For example, you may be constipated in the morning and then have unexpected diarrhea in the afternoon.

To be diagnosed with IBS-M your stools need to be both hard and lump, as well as loose in consistency, at least 25% of the time.


The fourth type of IBS is called IBS-U, or IBS unclassified. This type comes with a mix of symptoms. You’ve met the criteria to be diagnosed with IBS but your symptoms don’t fall into any of the above three categories.

Other Ways to Classify IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms

Aside from the four conditions listed above, there are two other ways to classify IBS.

Post-Infectious IBS

This happens when your symptoms of IBS begin after a bout of gastroenteritis. While the other types of IBS don’t have one specific cause you can point to, post-infectious IBS develops after you’ve had a gastrointestinal illness. That could be anything from food poisoning to a stomach bug.

Here’s how it happens. You may get sick from food poisoning and have symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Your illness subsides and while some of the symptoms are gone, you could still have diarrhea and stomach cramps.

The reason for this is following an infection, you may have chronic inflammation along with issues of gut flora and intestinal permeability, which is thought to cause post-infectious IBS.

Post-Diverticulitis IBS

Alternatively, post-diverticulitis IBS occurs after symptoms of diverticulitis. If you have had diverticulitis you could be at an increased risk of developing IBS.

What is diverticulitis? Diverticulitis occurs when small bulges or pockets develop in the lining of the intestine. When it causes symptoms like stomach pain it’s called diverticular disease. Now, if the symptoms become more severe, it’s called diverticulitis. Symptoms of diverticulitis come and go, and may last only a few days.

How do I know what type of IBS I have?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the different types of IBS, but don’t fret too much. An integrative practitioner will be able to help you understand and identify the type of IBS you may be suffering with.

There is no one test to identify whether or not you have IBS. Instead, your functional medicine provider will likely ask questions about your symptoms, take a medical history, and may perform a physical exam. They may also run tests such as blood tests, stool tests, and sometimes a colonoscopy.

Who is more likely to develop IBS? viral gastroenteritis

While there are many different types of IBS, in most cases women are more likely to develop the condition than men. In fact, women are two times more likely than men to develop it! People who are younger than 50 are also more likely to develop IBS.

Here are a few factors that can increase your likelihood of having IBS:

  • Having a family member with IBS
  • A history of stressful or difficult life events
  • Having a severe infection in your digestive tract

How to cure IBS?

With all the types of IBS, treatment depends on your specific symptoms and triggers. However, there are a few simple lifestyle changes that result in improvements for all cases of IBS.

  • Exercise

Research shows that moderate aerobic exercises may help improve all types of IBS. That includes exercises like biking or speed walking. If your IBS is triggered by stress, exercising can also help you manage any tension and anxiety related to it. It also has the ability to normalize contractions in your large intestine which may relieve constipation.

  • Stop Smoking

Nicotine may stimulate your colon and lead to diarrhea. On the other hand, research shows that it may also slow colon contractions in some people and cause constipation. In either case, your overall health will be improved if you quit smoking.

  • Dietary Changes

The food you eat affects your bowel movements. Additionally, certain foods may trigger your IBS symptoms. It’s helpful to keep a food journal so you can track everything you eat daily and any symptoms of IBS that occur after eating. That way you can make informed changes to your diet.

  • Stress Management Stress Relieving Modalities

Stress can make IBS worse. While it’s impossible to totally eliminate stress, it’s important to learn how to manage it. You can try working with a therapist, starting a new hobby, or practicing mindfulness and meditation.

  • Medication

Depending on the type of IBS you have there are also medications both over-the-counter and prescription that may ease your symptoms. Of course, you should work with a healthcare practitioner before taking any medication.

At Rose Wellness, we use a functional medicine approach to help identify the root causes of our patients’ IBS symptoms. We believe each patient is unique. Our integrative practitioners specializing in digestive disorders create a customized treatment plan based on your health history and results of specialty lab tests. Meet our team of practitioners or contact us today to learn more.