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What Causes Diarrhea and Constipation at the Same Time?

What Causes Diarrhea and Constipation at the Same Time?

Discomfort and pain that are related to altered bowel habits are two hallmarks of irritable bowel syndrome. Altered bowel habit is a commonly used term for constipation and diarrhea, but means different for different people. However, bowel symptoms affect the treatment choices. Thus, it’s necessary that you consult your doctor before any treatment.

What do you mean by bowel symptoms? Does diarrhea mean loose stools or frequent stools? Most of the people believe that diarrhea is loose stool and not frequent bowel movements. Physicians consider constipation as a hard pellet like stool which is the reflection of stool staying in the colon for a long time. But for many individuals, constipation is infrequent bowel movement; straining or difficulty in getting the stool out of the body. It also means the sensation of wanting to go to the toilet but having an unfinished bowel movement. It is certainly weird to have a constipated diarrhea, but if a person is feeling that he or she has not finished doing the toilet and has loose stool, it makes sense.

Depending on the criteria, The Rome III committees have designed four subtypes of irritable bowel syndrome. These describe constipation, diarrhea, alternating (shifting pattern of constipation and diarrhea) and mixed (both constipation and diarrhea). The diarrhea subtype of irritable bowel syndrome is designated to be hard pellet like stools less than 25% of the time and watery/loose stools more than 25% of the time. On the other hand, Constipation subtype of irritable bowel syndrome is designated as loose watery stools less than 25% of the time and hard pellet-like stools more than 25% of the time. People suffering from mixed irritable bowel syndrome, have both hard pellet like stools more than 25% of the time and loose watery stools more than 25% of the time. In ‘alternating irritable bowel syndrome, that pattern shifts between constipation and diarrhea.

What Causes Diarrhea and Constipation at the Same Time?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Causes Diarrhea and Constipation Simultaneously

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is yet unknown. But there are a variety of factors that play an important role. The intestinal walls are lined with muscle layers which contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they start moving food from your stomach to your rectum through intestinal tract. If you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the contractions could be stronger and last longer than usual, causing diarrhea, bloating and gas. Even opposite can occur, with slow food passage, weak intestinal contractions and hard-dry stools causing constipation.

Another factor causing irritable bowel syndrome is abnormality in your gastrointestinal nervous system. It will cause greater discomfort when your stomach passes gas or stretches from stool. Poorly coordinated signals between the intestines and the brain can possibly make your body overreact to the changes that usually occur in the digestive process. This overreaction of irritable bowel syndrome causes diarrhea and constipation, pain simultaneously.

The Triggers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome Vary from Person to Person

Stimulus that does not bother other people triggers symptoms in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, but not all people react to the same stimuli. Some of the common triggers include:

  • Foods: The role of food allergy in irritable bowel syndrome is not understood yet. But some people have severe symptoms when they eat certain kinds of foods like alcohol, carbonated beverage, milk, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beans, fruits, fats, spices and chocolate.
  • Stress: Most people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome find that the symptoms are worst during stress, for instance, during a new job or a final week of a job.
  • Hormones: Women are twice as likely to have irritable bowel syndrome; it is believed that hormonal changes worsen this condition. Many women find symptoms which are worse during menstrual period.
  • Other illnesses: sometimes, other illnesses like bacterial overgrowth, excessive bacteria in intestines, gastroenteritis, and an acute episode of infectious diarrhea can triggers irritable bowel syndrome.


  1. Mayo Clinic. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Symptoms & Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes
  3. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. “Understanding IBS: What is IBS?https://www.iffgd.org/other-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome.html

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 9, 2023

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