It can seem like there is NO rhyme or reason behind alternating constipation and diarrhoea (IBS-A).
It’s like a switch that goes from one state – to the other. From the outside, there is no real explanation.
On the inside there is one. It is unique to each and every one of us, but here are some pointers to consider:
Long-term alternating constipation and diarrhoea
In some IBS sufferers, their IBS-A goes back a very long way.
For some people, it can have been created around a stressful time being potty trained.
Or be linked to school, a place where there are specific times to “go”, and we can get used to holding in bowel movements for too long.
You may remember specific situations, but as they happened in early childhood you may also not be aware of anything special. But your body and subsconscious mind remember. This is when it may take time and expert eyes to find and release these triggers.
Alternating constipation and diarrhoea can be developed as a coping mechanism, tapping into primal survival strategies.
Survival strategies behind alternating constipation and diarrhoea
You have no doubt consulted your doctor and been given laxatives. And you have probably tried to change your diet.
However it may all have started many years back. When you had an experience that set off your primary survival rection of fight, flight or freeze.
As an adult you are in a MUCH better situation to be able to physically and verbally deal with the situations you encounter in everyday life.
However, you may have developed a pattern in childhood that gets triggered regulalry right now.
Diarrhoea tends to relate to flight
Energetically running away from a physical situation you could not remove yourself from as a child – where you could not physically outrun or escape from it.
Although you stayed, the energy pattern in your body wanted to run.
If a pattern like that is repeated or severe enough, it becomes a learned conditioned response.
This is not new.
Pavlov demonstrated the principle of conditioning in his famous experiment with dogs back in 1890, and received the Nobel Prize for his work.
I have worked with long-term anxious diarrhoea sufferers who have sadly been subjected to abuse in their childhood.
And others who had a challenging time at school. And they were thrilled to release this long-term pattern.
Constipation tends to be related to the freeze response
Contracting your muscles to appear smaller so as to not be seen, and avoid being on the receiving end of verbal, physical or emotional abuse. Pulling energy inwards tightly.
The freeze response can also temporarily interrupt the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, and stop you thinking on your feet.
But it can also be part of the fight response where the body shuts down digestion and periphery needs in order to concentrate all energy on winning the fight.
The problem with this fight response is if constant stress keeps your body in that state most of the time.
Bloating can, in some people, also be part of the fight response. Bloating up like a puffer fish to look stronger and more intimidating to ennemies.
Other patterns of IBS-A to consider
There are patterns I have noticed around constipation and diarrhoea.
Constipation is often about keeping in:
Keeping in emotions, needs, wants, desires, dreams – and instead going along with what other people tell you that you should be doing.
This can be a pattern you developed as a child to stay out of trouble.
To what extent are you living YOUR life and getting what you want? If you don’t actually know what you really want, this is a telltale sign that you have been ignoring yourself for a very long time.
Diarrhoea tends to be more of an anxious response of pushing away
What are you wanting to run from?
Maybe the pain of having a bowel movement. The embarassement of having to “go” when you’re out? Or the feeling of not being in control?
When may this have started as a pattern? And what sets it off for you now? Instead of just battling with the diarrhoea, see if you can notice when it tends to happen.
For some people who experience alternating constipation and diarrhoea, constipation will be the norm – then they will suddenly have a bout of diarrhoea. This could be, for example, a lovely person who puts others first a great deal and holds in their needs – until their body pushes all that out as diarrhoea in an attempt to keep the body balanced.
For other IBS-D and IBS-A sufferers, the diarrhoea wakes them up, or happens just after waking.
If that is the case, how did you sleep? Sleep problems can be related to digestive problems, but they can also be caused by feeling anxious. Do you tend to toss and turn at night, or have bad dreams? The answers lie in your unique story.
The good news is that you can potentially release ANY of these patterns.3