How to Know if You Have IBS-C [Plus Treatments & Diet]

You are here:

Table of Contents

You know if you have IBS-C (constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome) by the symptoms you exhibit. The main IBS-C symptom is constipation, but cramping, gas, and abdominal pain are also common signs of IBS with constipation.

The only way to know for certain if you have IBS-C is to receive a formal diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Diagnosing IBS-C may include a symptom checklist, a family medical history, and ruling out other conditions with imaging or blood tests.

IBS affects up to 55 million Americans. IBS-C is a subcategory of IBS where constipation, not diarrhea, is the main symptom.

Although there isn’t a conventional cure for IBS-C, certain supplements, drugs, and diet changes may be able to permanently reverse your IBS.

PrimeHealth is an integrative clinic in Colorado that can help reverse your IBS. Schedule your free consult today, and our medical providers will listen to your situation and craft an individualized treatment plan that works for your unique circumstances.

Disclaimer: We may receive a small commission from products you purchase via links in this article.

What Is IBS-C?

IBS-C stands for constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder is characterized by gut motility problems, stomach cramping, flatulence, and, most notably, constipation (difficulty passing stool).

The 4 types of IBS are:

  • IBS-C (constipation-predominant)
  • IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant)
  • IBS-M (mixed, alternating between diarrhea and constipation)
  • IBS-U (undefined, symptoms vary)

When you are constipated, defecation is difficult. when you do pass stool, it can be characterized by Bristol stool scale type 1 (separate, hard lumps). 

IBS-C and IBS-D tend to present in the same percentage of patients (one is not more common than the other).

Untreated IBS-C can cause indirect complications, such as daily discomfort, excess anxiety, loss of self-confidence, and sexual dysfunction.

Symptoms of IBS-C

Some symptoms occur with both main types of IBS (constipation- and diarrhea-predominant), while other symptoms are specific to IBS-C. Below, we separated them into 2 bulleted lists.

IBS-C symptoms that overlap with IBS-D:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Symptoms unique to IBS-C:

  • Constipation
  • Hard, lumpy stool
  • Fewer than ¼ of bowel movements are watery
  • More than ¼ of bowel movements are small, hard lumps

IBS should not cause unintentional weight loss, rectal bleeding, dizziness, low iron levels, or fever. If you have any of these “red flag” symptoms, seek medical attention because your condition could be more serious than just IBS.

What Causes IBS-C?

What directly causes IBS-C is unknown, but hypersensitivity to particular gut bacteria, nervous system changes, and immune responses are commonly involved. 

There are multiple potential causes and risk factors that are connected to IBS and constipation symptoms. 

Here are the risk factors that might cause IBS-C symptoms:

To improve your sleep quality, order a special chiliPAD mattress pad at this link, and enter code “PHD25” for 25% off.


There is no single test for IBS-C. But multiple tests put together can give a pretty accurate gut health diagnosis.

Your healthcare provider may use these diagnostic tools to make an IBS-C diagnosis:

  • Medical history: Including a symptom checklist
  • Family medical history: Including if you have family members who experienced IBS
  • Physical exam: Including listening to your abdomen with a stethoscope or touching your stomach in targeted locations
  • Stool tests: To rule out bile acid or parasites
  • Blood tests: To look for inflammatory markers or celiac disease
  • Colonoscopy: To check for colorectal cancer or IBD
  • Imaging tests: To look for cancer or lesions
Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed on Health Topics like this!
Get primehealth updates right to your inbox

An IBS-C diagnosis is based on the Rome diagnostic criteria, a standardized list of symptoms that determine whether someone has IBS-C.

Rome IV criteria for IBS-C include:

  • Abdominal pain recurring at least 1 day per week for 3 months
  • Abdominal pain that is related to changes in bowel habits or bowel function
  • More than 25% of bowel movements produce hard-to-pass lumps (over a 3-month period)
  • Fewer than 25% of bowel movements produce loose, watery stool (over a 3-month period)

Conditions to Rule Out

Because there isn’t one IBS test that can confirm or reject an IBS diagnosis, most of the diagnostic process is designed to rule out other conditions. 

The most common conditions that doctors prefer to rule out when diagnosing IBS or IBS-C:

  • IBD (inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Infection
  • SIBO
  • Parasites
  • Anemia
  • Polyps
  • Food sensitivities
  • Other subtypes of IBS
  • Various cancers

You are more likely to be diagnosed with IBS than specifically IBS-C. A more precise diagnosis may assist with formulating a treatment plan for your unique situation. Find a healthcare provider like PrimeHealth who stops at nothing to uncover the facts-based diagnosis you really need.


The treatment for IBS-C depends on the root cause of your unique case of IBS. Dietary changes, stress relief, and natural supplements like peppermint oil (a natural antispasmodic) or CBD can help. However, some people may require medication.

Below, we break down treatment options into medication and all-natural treatments.

Read more: Is a Colon Cleanse Right for Me?

Medications for IBS-C

Some medications can help with IBS-C, such as:

  • Fiber: Psyllium husk (Metamucil) is just one fiber capsule that can add soluble fiber to your stool. This fiber draws more water from your intestines into your stool, which helps reduce constipation. Drink plenty of water with laxatives.
  • Prucalopride (Motegrity): This and low-dose naltrexone are promotility agents used to treat IBS-C and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). These drugs support healthy bowel function and may reduce symptoms of IBS with constipation.
  • Neomycin: This drug, which goes by many different brand names, is an antibiotic that may treat IBS-C caused by SIBO.
  • Lubiprostone (Amitiza): This laxative drug is FDA-approved to treat chronic idiopathic constipation and IBS-C.
  • Linaclotide (Linzess): This laxative drug was approved by the FDA in 2012 to treat chronic constipation.
  • Plecanatide (Trulance): This FDA-approved drug increases intestinal fluid and transit, helping treat chronic constipation.
  • Rifaximin: This antibiotic is the generic of Xifaxan, an FDA-approved antibiotic treatment for IBS. Although it is most effective for IBS-D, rifaximin is also viable for IBS-C treatment.
  • Metronidazole and tinidazole: These drugs are antiparasitic antibiotics that may treat IBS caused by parasites or SIBO.
  • Antidepressants: Although antidepressants don’t treat the root cause of IBS, these prescription medications may reduce IBS pain symptoms or depression caused by IBS.

The side effects of these drugs may end up worse than your IBS symptoms. Talk to your doctor about potential side effects before taking these drugs, and communicate what side effects you’re experiencing if you do start taking them.

Natural Treatments for IBS-C

Below are the best natural treatments for IBS with constipation:

  • Foods to avoid: Avoid caffeine, common food allergens such as dairy and wheat, sugar alcohols, and processed foods. Using an elimination diet, identify which foods you may be sensitive or allergic to — lactose, gluten, nuts, and eggs being the most common allergens.
  • Foods to eat: Healthy fats, probiotic foods, and fiber are all foods you may benefit from adding to your diet. Try a low-FODMAP diet and drink plenty of water to help treat IBS-C symptoms. A health coach, nutritionist, or dietitian may help you healthily adhere to a strict diet like low-FODMAP.
  • Stress relief: Stress may not alone cause IBS-C, but it can flare up IBS symptoms. Find ways to relieve stress through meditation, physical activity, talk therapy, going outside, etc. Stress relief should help reduce your IBS symptoms. Also, prevent IBS flare-ups before they happen by avoiding stressful situations in the first place as much as you can. Check out Asutra for stress relief botanicals! Use code PRIME15 for 15% off your first order.
  • Regular exercise: Regular exercise (on average, 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week) goes a long way to reduce IBS flare-ups and improve overall health. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for your unique situation.
  • Fiber supplements: Consuming more fiber, such as psyllium supplements, can safely help improve IBS symptoms.
  • Magnesium: This helps with motility and smooth muscle relaxation. There are many types of magnesium, so work with your healthcare provider to determine which is right for you. 
  • Probiotics: When an imbalanced gut microbiome results in IBS-C, probiotic supplements may replenish the depleted beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract and resolve symptoms.
  • Peppermint oil: Although peppermint oil may not address the root cause of IBS, it has been shown to resolve symptoms of IBS.
  • Cannabidiol: CBD is a promising over-the-counter supplement for resolving IBS-C symptoms. Check out Ned CBD hemp oil, and enter code “PRIME” for 15% off your first order.
  • Biofilm disruptors: Natural biofilm disruptors can safely weaken harmful bacteria’s protective shells, called biofilm. Since biofilms resist antibiotics, biofilm disruptors may be required to neutralize harmful bacteria’s defenses. Examples of natural biofilm disruptors include oregano, cinnamon, and curcumin supplements.
  • Drink diuretics: Orange juice, coffee, and apple juice are examples of diuretics that accelerate digestion and help with constipation. Apple juice, specifically, has several natural compounds that help treat constipation: sorbitol, fiber, and water.

Too much coffee may worsen IBS-D symptoms, but the right amount of coffee may lower your risk of IBS-C. Follow our Instagram for more cutting-edge whole-body health tips.


What does IBS-C mean?

IBS-C means “constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.” This is a more specific way to identify IBS patients, separating those who experience constant constipation from those who experience frequent diarrhea — though there is some overlap.

How do you prevent IBS-C flare-ups?

You can prevent IBS-C flare-ups by avoiding stressful situations, avoiding food triggers, trying peppermint oil, and getting a formal diagnosis. Addressing the underlying cause of your IBS is the best way to improve your quality of life.

We’re Here to Help You

Most IBS-C patients have hope for complete reversal. At PrimeHealth, we identify and address the underlying cause of your IBS. So far, our patients have proved the success of our methods.

Our experts at Denver’s PrimeHealth clinic can answer all your questions, identify the underlying cause of your IBS, and formulate a treatment plan that works for your life. Schedule your free phone consultation right away!


  1. Peyton, L., & Greene, J. (2014). Irritable bowel syndrome: current and emerging treatment options. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39(8), 567.
  2. Rengarajan, S., Knoop, K. A., Rengarajan, A., Chai, J. N., Grajales-Reyes, J. G., Samineni, V. K., … & Hsieh, C. S. (2020). A potential role for stress-induced microbial alterations in IgA-associated irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea. Cell Reports Medicine, 1(7).
  3. Shaikh, S. D., Sun, N., Canakis, A., Park, W. Y., & Weber, H. C. (2023). Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the Gut Microbiome: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 12(7), 2558.
  4. Pati, G. K., Kar, C., Narayan, J., Uthansingh, K., Behera, M., Sahu, M. K., … & Uthansingh Sr, K. (2021). Irritable bowel syndrome and the menstrual cycle. Cureus, 13(1).
  5. Zejnelagic, J., & Ohlsson, B. (2021). Chronic stress and poor sleeping habits are associated with self-reported IBS and poor psychological well-being in the general population. BMC Research Notes, 14(1), 1-8.
  6. Koochakpoor, G., Salari-Moghaddam, A., Keshteli, A. H., Esmaillzadeh, A., & Adibi, P. (2021). Association of coffee and caffeine intake with irritable bowel syndrome in adults. Frontiers in Nutrition, 8, 632469.
  7. Salari-Moghaddam, A., Hassanzadeh Keshteli, A., Esmaillzadeh, A., & Adibi, P. (2020). Water consumption and prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome among adults. Plos one, 15(1), e0228205.
  8. Jimenez, M. P., DeVille, N. V., Elliott, E. G., Schiff, J. E., Wilt, G. E., Hart, J. E., & James, P. (2021). Associations between nature exposure and health: a review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(9), 4790.
  9. Horn, A., Stangl, S., Parisi, S., Bauer, N., Roll, J., Löffler, C., … & Keil, T. (2023). Systematic review with meta‐analysis: Stress‐management interventions for patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Stress and Health.
  10. Liguori, S. (2023). What are the benefits and harms of physical activity on irritable bowel syndrome?-A Cochrane Review summary with commentary. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 55.
  11. Alammar, N., Wang, L., Saberi, B., Nanavati, J., Holtmann, G., Shinohara, R. T., & Mullin, G. E. (2019). The impact of peppermint oil on the irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis of the pooled clinical data. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 19, 1-10.
  12. Fabisiak, A., Włodarczyk, M., Fabisiak, N., Storr, M., & Fichna, J. (2019). Gastrointestinal adverse events of cannabinoid 1 receptor inverse agonists suggest their potential use in irritable bowel syndrome with constipation: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, 28(4).
PrimeHealth Newsletter
Get tips & advice right to your inbox, plus stay up to date on PrimeHealth group visits and services.

Share this Post