IBS-D Symptoms, causes, and treatments

If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS-D, you know that the moments between attacks can be just as bad as the symptoms themselves. All of that planning and worry—where’s the bathroom? How will you get there? How long will it take?

But you might be surprised to learn what could be causing your IBS-D. Here are some facts about IBS-D’s symptoms and causes, and what might help you find relief.

IBS-D = irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea.

Photograph of man with arms wrapped around stomach
The Gut Guy character with arms wrapped around stomach

What is IBS-D?

IBS-D stands for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea.

It is a common disorder of the large intestine (colon). If you think you may have IBS-D, you’re not alone. It is believed to affect more than 16 million Americans.

IBS-D symptoms can happen on a regular basis and vary widely from one person to the next. But they always include abdominal pain and diarrhea.

What causes IBS-D?

IBS-D is a complicated condition with several factors that can affect the digestive system. However, the precise cause of IBS-D is unknown. An imbalance in the normal healthy bacteria in the digestive system has been found in people with IBS-D. The bacteria and microorganisms in your digestives system, collectively called the microbiota, help you digest and absorb food and are constantly working to keep your body functioning normally.

Other factors could include improper signaling between the brain and the digestive system, inflammation or severe infection in the intestines, too strong or weak intestinal muscle contractions, family history and genetics, and in some cases anxiety and/or depression.

Graphic showing how Xifaxan inhibits growth of certain bacteria in the digestive system
Graphic showing how Xifaxan inhibits growth of certain bacteria in the digestive system

Living with IBS-D

Everyday life and commitments can be a challenge if you are suffering from IBS-D. The unpredictability of symptoms may cause you to limit your social life, stay home from work or school, avoid traveling long distances, avoid favorite foods or drinks, and constantly plan for the bathroom.

Tips for managing your IBS-D

Depending on what triggers your symptoms, there are some lifestyle changes that could help. People living with IBS-D have had success with regular exercise, meditation, and other stress-reducing techniques. Eliminating trigger foods from your diet, such as those that cause gas or contain gluten, can make a difference. And it’s important to stay educated about IBS-D and talk to your healthcare providers. There can be a great benefit in joining local or online support groups as well.

The Gut Guy character with arms wrapped around stomach

There’s no one profile for a person who will develop IBS, but



Community and online support groups

With an estimated 16 million Americans living with IBS-D, chances are that some of them share your experience, and that some of them would love to talk with you. For support in your local community, talk to your doctor about groups that might meet nearby. Many hospitals and health centers sponsor support groups for people living with chronic diseases, IBS-D very much included.

Free online support groups include:

IBS Patient Support Group

This online group with more than 65,000 active members shares information and ideas about coping with IBS.


This health site has resources for managing the stress and lifestyle changes that come with living with irritable bowel syndrome, along with an online patient support group.


This online resource offers closed groups on a variety of diseases and conditions, including IBS. Share your thoughts on message boards, get the latest clinical trial information, and find tips for living with your condition.

Get a community perspective on IBS symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, patient stories, and support.