The People's Perspective on Medicine

Solving Problems With Both Constipation and Diarrhea

A person who suffers constipation and diarrhea as a result of irritable bowel syndrome offers tips on how to manage them both.
Red raspberry ripened on a branch with leaves. Ripe delicious red raspberry berries in nature. Raspberry branch with berries and leaves natural foliage background

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common digestive disorder, affecting between 25 million and 45 million individuals in the US. For many decades, gastroenterologists labeled this a “functional GI disorder,” meaning they couldn’t find a pathological cause for the constipation and diarrhea people with the condition suffer. However, doctors are paying more attention now that there are several drugs they can prescribe for the diarrhea associated with it (Advances in Therapy, Nov. 9, 2019). People with this problem, however, often prefer to look for non-pharmaceutical ways to manage it.

Managing Constipation and Diarrhea:

Q. Since battling irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for years, I’ve had to deal with both constipation and diarrhea. For diarrhea, I make tea from raspberry leaves. You can get the leaves at health food stores or online. Don’t mistake this for raspberry-flavored tea, which doesn’t work.

As for constipation, I use the pumpkin bran muffins from your Guide to Digestive Disorders. It takes a few days to get results. I call them “muffins to GO.”

Poop-Pops for Constipation:

Nurse’s pudding works well, too. After mixing applesauce, AllBran and prune juice, I put it in ice cube trays and freeze it. I pop out one or two when I need them. Of course, I call these “Poop-pops.”

Believe me, I’m not making light of the situation. When I have a normal BM, I feel like I’ve won a gold medal. It’s a heck of a way to live, but I hope it helps someone else.

Strategies for Coping With Constipation and Diarrhea:

A. Thank you for sharing your strategies for coping with IBS. Struggling to control both constipation and diarrhea can be very trying. Anyone who uses the Power Pudding recipe (nurse’s pudding) should be sure to drink plenty of water at the same time to prevent intestinal blockage. The usual dose is one to two tablespoons a day.

Raspberry leaves have traditionally been used to treat diarrhea (Current Medicinal Chemistry, June 2004). We don’t think this remedy has been tested scientifically, but we are glad it works for you. 

Eating With IBS:

As we mentioned above, IBS used to be considered a disorder without any apparent pathology. However, that has now changed, as researchers have discovered small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria) or disruption of the gut-brain connection are associated with the condition (Annals of Gastroenterology, Nov-Dec. 2019). Most people with IBS have either diarrhea or constipation as the predominant symptom, but many others, like you, must cope with both constipation and diarrhea. Sometimes people find it helpful to avoid certain foods, such as those containing fructose or gluten. Sufferers may find a low-FODMAP diet is helpful. 

CJ reported:

“I started a low FODMAP diet at my gastroenterologist’s recommendation almost a year ago. Not only did my tummy problems clear up (well, 80% or so), but also my joint pain went away! After a decade of joint pain, this was AMAZING. So, it is worth the inconvenience for me. When I slip, my joints react first–and I go right back on the diet.”

Unfortunately, not everyone gets such excellent results. 

Lucy found that the diet was distressing:

“I have had IBS-D for ten years… daily up to seven times if I don’t take Imodium. I am 72 and hardly go out. I tried the FODMAP diet over a year ago for two weeks and the problem was worse than ever…explosive diarrhea. I was so disappointed.”

Lisa offered a few words of caution:

“Speaking from experience (I successfully tried the diet with the book and a nutritionist, but it didn’t relive my IBS)
Please be aware that the FODMAP diet is intense and not a fad. If you’re suffering, it’s worth a try. However, because it is extremely restrictive and complex, it absolutely must be done under the supervision of a nutritionist, no exceptions. Also, it requires such care that one should really work with the actual book or a nutritionist who has it because following online guidelines will not be comprehensive enough. It must be followed with utmost attention to detail.”

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
    Digestive Disorders

    Download this guide to getting off heartburn medicine. Preventing ulcers. Effective treatments for constipation and diarrhea. Foods and drugs that cause gas.

    Digestive Disorders
    • Brenner DM & Sayuk GS, "Current US Food and Drug Administration-approved pharmacologic therapies for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea." Advances in Therapy, Nov. 9, 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s12325-019-01116-z
    • Patel AV et al, "Therapeutic constituents and actions of Rubus species." Current Medicinal Chemistry, June 2004. DOI: 10.2174/0929867043365143
    • Hadjivasilis A et al, "New insights into irritable bowel syndrome: from pathophysiology to treatment." Annals of Gastroenterology, Nov-Dec. 2019. DOI: 10.20524/aog.2019.0428
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    I have had IBS for more than 30 years, and it is the mixed kind, too. I use enteric-coated peppermint to alleviate discomfort. I take psyllium husks for extra bulk and eat fermented foods, like sauerkraut, to keep the flora balanced. Another help is 400 mg of magnesium nightly. An OTC antacid product helps counteract gas and bloating. I have no eaten milk products for years as I am severely lactose intolerant.

    I’ve had IBS for 10 plus years I’m 64 and what is worked for me very well, is one capful of generic Miralax and 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day. I’ve been using both of these for several years now…. and they work for me!!
    Jim K

    Another cause of digestive problems is BSM ~ Bile Salts Malabsorption. This comes as a result of about 15% of people who lose their gall bladder. It is very distressing, with diarrhea 15-20 times a day because your food goes straight through. I don’t know about the raspberry, but it’s worth trying. For sure, I know that cacao works wonders, along with activated charcoal. Do some investigating about these two things.

    There are many many studies in pubmed documenting the flavanoids & polyphenols, (such as ellagic acid, salicytic acid, quercetin, luteolin, etc) in raspberry leaves, and in vitro experiments showing anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial compounds in raspberry leaves, as well as a study of sprague dawley rats and the effects of raspberry leaf compounds on colon cells, and their leaves have also been shown in animal study to stop and slow the migration of cancer cells during wound healing experiments promoting apoptosis.

    Many of the studies have been in the past several years, examining the value of the leaves, in addition to the berries, for future use in the emerging field of functional food development. Also for its value as a beneficial foraging plant to have on farms for grazing purposes. Research has shown many of the beneficial compounds in the plant are higher in the leaves than the berry, and in at least one study that the majority of the beneficial compound levels are higher in organic plants than conventionally grown ones, though not all.

    For several years I suffered from what I thought was IBS, constipation and diarrhea with stomach discomfort and bloating. After talking to some friends, I decided to try a gluten-free diet, and to my surprise and delight, my symptoms went away. I would encourage anyone suffering from IBS type symptoms to give it a try.

    I’ve had IBS-D with explosive diarrhea since my 30’s, and I’m 69 now. VIBERZI was prescribed, and I took it for 2 years with good results. BUT if you don’t have a gall bladder, VIBERZI can cause acute pancreatitus and death, so I was no longer a candidate. (Plus the cost is astronomical, and I got a lot of samples through my doctor.)

    Spent the past 6 months in the bathroom, afraid to go out unless there was a restroom close by. Then a month ago, I read your article about the folks in New Zealand who used a raspberry powder remedy for Montezuma’s revenge while traveling so I decided to try it. After nearly a month, I’ve only had 2 diarrhea episodes! Sometimes I use the bathroom 2-3 times a day for “normal BM’S” but no urgency, cramps or pain.

    I found an electrolyte rasberry powder drink mix on line, and I use it once a day after dinner. I also take 2 psyllium husk capsules in the AM and PM before bed. I am thrilled at the results. Now I’m no longer afraid to leave home! Thank you!!

    I have difficulty finding the coconut cookies some readers have used for problem diarrhea or IBS. I have been eating Fig Newtons at about 7:30 pm daily for at least a year to add fiber. I only eat 2 each time. While this works for me, others may need to adjust how many they need to help them. I can tell the next day if I missed my nightly treat.

    Why is nothing about probiotics mentioned in managing irritable bowel for which I have not been medically diagnosed, but experience the symptons(diarrhea/constipation)? My nurse practitioner, to whom I had explained my symptoms, told me to go to the local health food store and get probiotics. I guess I am lucky that taking 1 capsule a day consisting of 10 Probiotic Strains and 30 billion live cultures helps.

    I was also lucky that the person who stocked those shelves was seemingly knowledgeble for what I needed since looking at all of the products displayed is overwhelming! I had also been told by someone in the past that probiotics had to be refrigerated but this one didn’t.

    I eat an apple every night at bedtime. I peel mine as I am allergic to salicylate, and the peel is full of it. It’s mother nature’s preservative.

    My dad used to drink warm prune juice with a little lemon in it every morning for his bowel problems, that worked for him.

    It’s all your microbiome. Get away from the AMERICAN diet. Visit an international grocer. Stick to mostly veggies and greens, beans. I keep soaked seaweed in my Frig. Roast fresh pumpkin seeds. Every meal should be an eating adventure of a new plant based meal. It takes a while but my gut has healed – 30 years of constipation and now perfect daily BM.

    I spent ten years trying to find the reason for the diarrhea that prevented me from going anywhere. Finally saw a Naturopathic physician and found that I had many food sensitivities. Yes, my diet is restrictive but I can live a normal life now. I think food sensitivities are overlooked since medical doctors don’t seem to recognize them. Fortunately, I lived in Oregon when this happened, and Naturopathic medicine is recognized more there.

    One year ago I was diagnosed with collagenous colitis and have been on the FODMAP diet, after being on a steroid for 12 weeks. I have lost 40 pounds previously to being diagnosed. The diet is very restrictive, but it has helped, but I cannot gain back an ounce, so far. I was diagnosed in Oregon, but am now in Texas, and my doctor of many years has never heard of collagenous colitis. There seem to be no dieticians here, so I just try to eat only what I know does not cause problems. I have found that bread (gluten) does not cause problems, which helps immensely, but my diet consists of mainly bread, toasted, peanut butter, V8 juice, almond milk and small servings of oatmeal. I’m wondering if anyone has any recommendations with this same diagnosis?

    I suffer from diarrhea and have for years. I took Chinese herbs and had acupuncture, and these helped a lot.
    My most recent fix is 1 black walnut hull pill daily.
    This is the best fix yet. I did read that you should only take this for 2 weeks.
    I hope that after 2 weeks things will be much better.

    FODMAP is just another fad; it works for some but not for all. It’s so restrictive that it can impact your health in other ways. And if you look up FOODMAP guidelines, you will find that one place says this food is fine, another says never to eat this; there is no agreement or standard.

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