IBS is different for everyone. Although lifestyle changes can’t cure IBS, your symptoms can often be reduced by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, including dietary changes.
- Dietary fibre allows your stool to retain enough water to be soft and easy to pass.
- Your IBS symptoms may worsen if you don’t eat enough or overeat fibre.
- Try to eat smaller meals at regular times.
- Drinking enough water every day will help alleviate constipation.
- Sources of soluble dietary fibre include fruits (oranges), vegetables (carrots, peas, beans, and legumes), and high-fibre cereal (oats). Probiotics help to restore gut bacteria.
Some foods and drinks commonly trigger IBS, so try to reduce your intake of the following to see if this helps:
- Gas-producing foods include onion, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, dried beans, lentils, broccoli, and cauliflower.
- Foods with lactose (milk sugar), such as milk, ice cream, and yogurt.
- Alcoholic or carbonated drinks.
- Coffee or other caffeinated beverages.
- Artificial sweeteners in food and drink, such as aspartame, sorbitol, and mannitol.
Keep a food and symptom journal to help identify and avoid triggers. A dietitian can help you identify your triggers and work with you to create a balanced diet that suits you.
Sometimes, a low FODMAP diet may be recommended for you. FODMAP is short for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are types of carbohydrates found in certain foods, including wheat and beans. For some people, these can trigger symptoms of IBS.
Other strategies that may reduce your IBS symptoms include:
- Physiotherapy to help address pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Stress management (meditation, deep breathing, visualisation, and muscle relaxation can help).
- Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight
- Heat application: Use a hot water bottle or a relaxing warm bath.
- Sipping peppermint tea can help to soothe your stomach.
Diet and lifestyle changes are often the best long-term strategy to relieve symptoms. A dietitian can ensure you don’t miss out on critical nutrients while identifying and excluding foods that trigger your IBS.
You should consult your healthcare provider if your symptoms are still unresolved. With the proper medication, you should find relief and prevent IBS from inhibiting your everyday activities and quality of life.