Don’t let constipation
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“Regularity” is different for different people. Some people can have bowel movements several times a day, while others may only go several times a week. If you have fewer than 3 bowel movements a week, it’s a sign that you may have constipation. If you experience constipation regularly, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you may have Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation (IBS-C) or Chronic Idiopathic Constipation (CIC).

Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation (IBS-C) and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation (CIC)

Constipation with or without belly pain is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the U.S. According to healthcare providers, there are at least 2.5 million doctor visits every year for constipation. Up to 15% of adults in the U.S. suffer from symptoms of IBS-C or CIC. Symptoms of the conditions are similar and may include discomfort, bloating, and straining to have a bowel movement.*

Learn more about managing these conditions.

*While estimates may vary, as many as 13 million and 35 million adult Americans suffer from symptoms of IBS-C or CIC, respectively.

SO, What is IBS-c?

IBS is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder defined as recurrent belly pain that occurs along with altered bowel habits. There are three main subtypes: IBS with constipation (IBS-C), IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), and mixed IBS (IBS-M) where there is both constipation and diarrhea. IBS-C is characterized by recurrent abdominal pain, hard or lumpy stool, bloating, straining when having a bowel movement, and feeling like a bowel movement is incomplete. These symptoms can ebb and flow over time, which can make it difficult to realize that there may be a need to seek treatment.

Your GI tract is made up of a group of organs that work together to break down your food, absorb nutrients, and remove waste. Sounds like a perfect system, right?

But, when it comes to food and waste moving through your body, speed counts. Sometimes, the speed of food traveling through your intestines slows down.

When this happens, it may mean that too much water is being absorbed into the intestines. That causes hard or dry stool, which may lead to constipation. This could also be accompanied by belly pain.

If you experience these patterns in your bowel movements, speak openly and honestly with your healthcare provider. There could be treatment options that can help you.

Get to know CIC

If the symptoms of your constipation are sudden or last a short time, it could be that your constipation is occasional. If the symptoms return and last longer, it may be chronic constipation. And, if you experience difficult, infrequent, or incomplete bowel movements, it could be due to Chronic Idiopathic Constipation (CIC).

"Chronic" means that symptoms occur frequently and over a long period of time (more than 3 months). "Idiopathic" means that symptoms arise from an unknown cause and cannot be attributed to medication or an underlying illness.

You’re not alone, as CIC affects as many as 35 million adults in the U.S. Share any symptoms you may be experiencing and any prior treatments you’ve used to try and manage those symptoms with your healthcare provider.

Learn more about managing this condition.

Let’s understand the difference between the two conditions:

What are
symptoms of IBS-C?

  • Your belly pain lasts from 3 days to 1 month for at least 3 months
  • Your discomfort lessens when you have a bowel movement
  • You notice changes in the frequency or appearance of your bowel movements
  • You experience hard or lumpy stool at least 25% of the time
  • You experience loose or watery stool less than 25% of the time
  • You strain to have a bowel movement
  • You feel bloated
  • You suffer from gas pain
  • You feel like you have not completely emptied your bowels after a movement

What are
symptoms of CIC?*

  • You have infrequent stool or bowel movements less than 3 times a week
  • You have abdominal discomfort
  • You experience difficulty passing stool
  • You strain to have a bowel movement
  • You feel like you have not completely emptied your bowels after a movement
  • You experience hard or lumpy stool
  • You feel bloated
  • You suffer from gas pain

*Symptoms of CIC include at least two of the above


To start, keep a diary of your bowel activity. This might help you to stay focused and strong.

Record details of your symptoms to share with your healthcare provider at your next appointment:

  • How many times per week do you experience the symptom?
  • How long have you experienced the symptom?
  • How severe is the symptom? Does it disrupt your day?
  • Does anything seem to trigger the symptom? For example: A type of food or stress?
  • If you notice changes in the consistency or form of your stool, write down the details.

Also, include any information that may help your healthcare provider learn more about your body and your health, such as:

  • A list of all the medications you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines.
  • Any big changes that have happened since your last visit: new health conditions, changes to your diet or exercise routine, or causes of stress.
  • And discuss whether you felt they were effective and any remedies or medications that you've tried in the past.
    Examples: prescription or non-prescription medications, adding more fiber to your diet, drinking more water, exercising, etc.

List any questions for your healthcare provider to make sure you cover your most pressing concerns.

Learn as much as you can about your condition so that you can take control of the conversation with your healthcare provider.

Check Your Symptoms

Download this PDF and mark what you’ve
experienced for easy reference when talking to
your healthcare provider.


IBS-C and CIC Treatment Options

There are several ways to help manage your IBS-C or CIC symptoms.

Diet and lifestyle changes: Your doctor may recommend making changes to your diet and lifestyle to help manage your symptoms. Depending on your diagnosis, these changes may include:

  • Limiting certain foods like complex carbohydrates and fatty foods, as well as caffeine and alcohol.
  • Eating high-fiber foods like certain fruits, vegetables, bran flakes, and beans. Make sure you increase your fiber intake slowly so your digestive system can adjust.
  • Reducing stress through relaxation techniques and regular exercise like walking or yoga.
  • Drinking more water to stay hydrated. About 6-8 glasses a day is recommended.
  • Staying active with about 20-30 minutes of exercise a day.

Medication: Your doctor may recommend trying over-the-counter laxatives. These are approved to treat occasional constipation, but are not intended for long-term relief. There are also prescription medications available for the treatment of IBS-C and CIC. Ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of each treatment option.

Find out about a prescription treatment option for IBS-C and CIC.