IBS Dietary Advice

IBS Dietary Advice

There is no single effective treatment for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). A healthy diet and lifestyle may improve your IBS. Many people with IBS report symptoms worsen after eating.

IBS Dietary Advice

There is no single effective treatment for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). A healthy diet and lifestyle may improve your IBS. Many people with IBS report symptoms worsen after eating.

If a dietary cause is suspected then your GP or practice nurse may give you some general dietary and lifestyle advice to try as a first step, however, 50% of people report that this does not result in an improvement of their symptoms. Your GP or pharmacist may also suggest various types of medication that could help to reduce symptoms.

The following dietary recommendations and tips may help to improve your IBS.
 

  • Recommendation
    Eat three regular meals a day

Tip: Avoid long gaps between meals and space evenly through the day. Smaller meal sizes may help symptoms.

  • Recommendation
    Try not to skip  meals, eat too quickly or eat late at night

Tip: Take time to chew and eat your food well and relax over meal-times.

  • Recommendation
    Limit alcohol intake

Tip: Limit to no more than two units per day and have at least two alcohol-free days a week.
 

  • Recommendation
    Reduce intake of caffeine-containing drinks

Tip: Limit to no more than 3 cups per day. Switch to decaffeinated or caffeine-free varieties
 

  • Recommendation
    Drink at least 8 cups of fluid per day (1.5-2 litres a day)

Tip: Especially water or other still, non-caffeinated drinks e.g. herbal teas,. Limit fizzy, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks as these may worsen your symptoms.
A good guide to whether you have an adequate fluid intake is to check the colour or your urine- a pale straw colour is ideal.
 

  • Recommendation
    Cut down on rich or fatty foods

Tip: These foods may increase IBS symptoms. It is also recommended to limit high-fat foods as part of a healthy diet. Use less oil, butter, spreads, creamy sauces & dressings and choose low-fat alternatives. Include fewer fatty foods in your diet for IBS e.g. chips, crisps, cakes, biscuits, sausages, burgers and pastry products. Grilling, poaching, steaming, boiling and baking are healthier alternatives to frying.
 

  • Recommendations
    Reduce your intake of manufactured foods

Tip: Cook from fresh ingredients where possible
 

  • Recommendations
    Limit fresh fruit to three portions per day

Tip: A portion is:
- 80g of fruit
- 150ml of fruit/vegetable juice

 

If initial dietary advice hasn’t led to an improvement in your symptoms, you may want to try some more specific dietary changes based on the symptoms you have.

  • If symptoms include:
    bloating & wind

You could try:
Limiting your intake of foods known to cause wind e.g. beans and pulses, sprouts, cauliflower and sugar-free foods such as mints or chewing gum. Oats might be helpful to include e.g. oat-based breakfast cereal or porridge. Linseeds may also improve symptoms (take up to one tablespoon per day)
 

  • If symptoms include:
    constipation

You could try:
Gradually increasing your fibre intake- any sudden increase may make symptoms worse. Ensure you increase your fluid intake as well.
Good sources of fibre include wholegrains, oats, vegetables, fruit and linseeds. These foods will help to soften stools and make them easier to pass. Try adding one tablespoon per day of golden or brown linseeds (whole or ground) to breakfast cereal, yoghurt, soup or on a salad. Have a small glass (150ml) of fluid with each tablespoon of linseeds taken). It can take several months to see a benefit.
 

  • If symptoms include:
    diarrhoea

You could try:
Limiting your caffeine intake from tea, coffee and soft drinks to three drinks per day.
Try reducing your intake of high-fibre foods such as wholewheat breakfast cereals and breads.
Avoid sugar-free foods containing sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol e.g. sugar-free drinks, mints, gum. Make sure you drink plenty to replace lost fluids

 

Probiotics & IBS

Probiotic products contain ‘friendly’ or ‘good’ bacteria which may help IBS. These are available in yoghurt, fermented milk drinks, powder or supplement form. It is important to be aware that some will contain ingredients that might cause IBS symptoms to worsen.

If you decide to try a probiotic product, take it daily for at least four weeks at the manufacturer-recommended dose to see if it improves your IBS.

Alternative Dietary Advice for IBS – low FODMAP diet

If these approaches does not result in improvement of symptoms then other dietary treatment options can be explored. It may be suggested that you trial a diet that is low in short-chain fermentable carbohydrates (also known as the ‘low FODMAP diet’) which can improve symptoms of IBS. This is a complex diet and should only be followed under the guidance of a low FODMAP-trained dietitian.

For more information on the low FODMAP diet click here.

The IBS Network (the charity that supports patients who have IBS) offer a range of resources to support people who are suffering from IBS. For more information, click here