Written by Kimberley Gittens on behalf of Rachel McBryan, RD 

You may have noticed that not everyone with IBS experiences the same triggers, or symptoms during flare-ups. In fact, most people with IBS have different triggers and “IBS-safe foods”. One of the reasons for this is that there are different types of IBS.

Why Should You Know Your Type of IBS

Knowing and understanding your dominant type of IBS can help you identify ways to manage the symptoms. It can also make it easier for you to spot on-coming flare ups.

Symptom tracking is can help you identify what is your dominant type of IBS, and the indicators of a flare up. 

Types of IBS

IBS is categorized into different subtypes based on the dominant symptoms that you experience during flare-ups. In addition to the common symptoms of IBS such as stomach cramping and bloating, people also experience changes in the movement of food through the gut during flare-ups, which contribute to the dominant symptoms they experience. 

Currently, there are 4 different types of IBS. Understanding the type of IBS you have can help identify dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to support IBS management. It can also help determine what types of medications can be used to alleviate symptoms of your IBS. 


People experiencing constipation as a primary symptom of their IBS flare-ups are said to have IBS-C (constipation). With IBS-C, you may also experience less frequent trips to the bathroom, along with more bloating. 

Including additional fibre and gentle exercises such as yoga or walking can help promote the movement of food through your gut and reduce your constipation. 

Another way to support bowel movements during IBS-C is by using the Squatty Potty. The Squatty Potty is a stool designed to fit around the toilet. It helps to support bowel movements by elevating your feet while you’re on the toilet, helps to relax a muscle (your puborectalis muscle) below your rectum.  

The Squatty Potty can help alleviate constipation. IBS-C is a common type of IBS.


Diarrhea is the primary symptom during IBS-D flare-ups. People with IBS-D experience watery, loose bowel movements during their flare-ups rather than constipation. 

According to research, excessive caffeine, indigestible carbohydrates and high lactose intakes can contribute to this type of IBS. If you have this type of IBS, it may be helpful to lay off the coffee (or caffeinated tea), high lactose foods and high-fibre foods during flare ups. 

One symptom of IBS is diarrhea. IBS-D is one of the four types of IBS


IBS-M refers to IBS with mixed bowel symptoms. In other words, people with this type of IBS experience a combination of both constipation and diarrhea during flare-ups. 

Managing this type of IBS can be overwhelming due to the alternating symptoms. Making sure you are getting enough fluid, limiting your caffeine intake, getting enough fibre and incorporating gentle exercise into your routine can help with managing your symptoms. 


IBS-U refers to unclassified IBS. People with unclassified IBS don’t necessarily experience constipation or diarrhea, but may continue to experience regular bowel movements throughout their flare-up. During IBS-U flare ups, it is still important to consume enough fluid and eat balanced meals while managing your symptoms. 

Tracking Your Symptoms

If you’re not sure what type of IBS you’re experiencing, you may consider tracking your symptoms during flare-ups. Keeping a symptom journal can help you and your healthcare team identify changes in your symptoms as well as any your personal triggers IBS triggers. 

Get Help Identifying Your IBS-Triggers

Identifying your IBS triggers allows you to eliminate them from your diet, and prevent flares up and post-meal discomfort. Book a FREE discovery call today to learn more about working with a Registered Dietitian to manage your IBS! 


Alberta Health Services. (2020, May 4). Nutrition Guideline – Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Alberta Health Services. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/nutrition/if-nfs-ng-irritable-bowel-syndrome.pdf 

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. (n.d.). Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation (IBS-C). ASGE. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding-irritable-bowel-syndrome-with-constipation-ibs-c 

Grundmann, O., & Yoon, S. L. (2010). Irritable bowel syndrome: Epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment: An update for health-care practitioners. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/j.1440-1746.2009.06120.x 

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Kimberley is a Registered Dietitian, licensed in Ontario. She helps clients across Ontario control their blood sugars and reduce their risk of chronic conditions.