IBS 101: What is IBS-U?

IBS 101: What is IBS-U?

Published on Friday, March 11, 2022 by Allison Koch

You’ve been diagnosed with IBS-U. What does that mean?

For many of us who have struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it is often a long road to diagnosis and treatment. There is usually some comfort in the diagnosis of IBS-D, IBS-C, or IBS-M because it makes sense - my IBS includes diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of diarrhea and constipation. So what does it mean when someone is diagnosed with IBS-U?

IBS-U stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome- Unsubtyped. 

With IBS-U, it has been determined that your stool consistency does not meet the criteria for IBS-D, IBS-C, or IBS-M but that does not mean you do not have IBS. Clinically, it means you have both watery/loose stools and hard stools less than 25% of the time based on the Rome IV Criteria for diagnosis. 

Possible Reasons for IBS-U

  • Motility disorders
    • Increased motility in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) can lead to diarrhea and decreased motility in the GI tract can lead to constipation. Additionally, people with IBS can experience abdominal spasms that cause abdominal pain.
  • Increased GI sensitivities
    • People who suffer from IBS may have increased nerve sensitivity in their gut which leads to more discomfort and pain with gas and stool.
  • Altered gut bacteria
    • With small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, there is an increase in the number and type of bacteria in the upper GI tract. Furthermore, over the past several years, there has been more research conducted to discover the impact of the gut microbiome on IBS.
  • Brain-gut dysregulation
    • For example: The enteric nervous system (ENS) in your gut controls digestion and if there is a disruption from the ENS nerve cells in your GI tract to your brain, there can be signals sent to your central nervous system (CNS) that may trigger some serious emotional and mood changes.

IBS is a chronic disorder that can last for years for some people. Additional diagnostic criteria that could be used to determine if you have IBS-U are:

Your symptoms began at least 6 months ago
You have experienced pain and/or discomfort in your abdomen at least 3 times a month for the past 3 months

    Additionally, your abdominal pain and/or discomfort has 2 or 3 of the following characteristics:

    The pain and/or discomfort improves after a bowel movement
    You notice a change in how your bowel movements look
    You notice a change in how often you are having a bowel movement

      Symptoms of IBS-U can also include bloating, mucus in the stool, and a feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation. Your medical provider or gastroenterologist may recommend that you increase your fiber intake to promote bowel health (women should aim for 21-25g of fiber per day and men should aim for 30-38g of fiber per day) or a Low-FODMAP diet. 

      The Low-FODMAP diet is a promising and effective treatment for many people who suffer from IBS through identifying known GI triggers through an elimination, reintroduction, and maintenance phase. FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.

      Check out our collection of Low-FODMAP products to help get you started.

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