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.

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

Good Foods to eat with IBS

If you have specific symptoms, you may find eating the advice could help with your IBS.

If symptoms include:
bloating & wind
Try the following to help your IBS
Oats might be helpful e.g. oat-based breakfast cereal or porridge. Linseeds may also improve symptoms (take up to one tablespoon per day)

If symptoms include:
constipation
Try the following to help your IBS
Try to gradually increase 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 (see: Where is fibre found?). 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
Try the following to help your IBS
Drink plenty to replace lost fluids

Where is fibre found?

Dietary fibre is found in many foods including:

  • Cereals such as wheat, barley, rye, corn, rice and cereal products such as bread, breakfast cereals and pasta. Wholemeal or wholegrain varieties will contain the most fibre.
  • Beans, lentil, pulses
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds

As fibre affects the firmness of your stools and how often you pass them, changing your fibre intake can help your IBS. The amount of fibre you need varies depending on your symptoms and current fibre intake.

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 this approach 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.