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Diet - Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Dietary and lifestyle changes can often help individuals to manage their IBS symptoms and improve their quality of life. It is important you make changes according to your symptoms, so keeping a food and symptom diary may be helpful.  Also, try to make one change at a time so that you can see what has helped and what doesn’t. Here is a useful link to some NHS Webinars;


Dietary changes

  1. Eat at least three regular meals a day

    • Avoid missing meals or long gaps between eating.

    • Eating smaller meals may help.

    • Take time to eat meals, including sitting down to eat and chewing food thoroughly.

    • Avoid eating late at night.


  1. Drink at least eight cups of fluid per day

    • If you find this amount of fluid is not enough, then increase as tolerated.

    • The best type of fluid to drink is water.  Sometimes adding flavouring e.g. squash or lemon or lime helps to encourage drinking more.

    • Avoid fizzy drinks, these often increase bloatin.

    • Keep a glass or bottle near you to remind you to drink regularly throughout the day.

    • Avoid diet drinks as these may contribute to bloating


  1. Consider your alcohol intake

    • Limit alcohol to no more than two units per day.

    • Have at least two alcohol free days a week.


  1. Consider your caffeine intake

    • Limit caffeine-based drinks to three regular sized per day e.g. instant coffee or tea.

    • Avoid strong coffee e.g. espresso.


  1. Consider your spicy food intake

    • Spicy food may trigger receptors in the gut, if you think this is increasing your IBS symptoms, think about avoiding spicy foods.


  1. Ensure your dietary intake is in line with healthy eating guidelines

    • Eat a good variety of foods.

    • Reduce your intake of fatty foods e.g. cheese, chips, pizza, sausages, burgers, pies, batter, pizza, cake, chocolate, biscuits, spreads and oil used in cooking (evidence shows that a fatty meal may cause greater abdominal pain and bloating in individuals with IBS).

    • Reduce your intake of complex indigestible carbohydrates, such as resistant starch, this is often found in pre-prepared sauces, pasta and some breads.

    • Reduce your intake of manufactured foods and cook from fresh as often as possible.


  1. Milk and milk containing products

    • Lactose restriction shows limited improvements in symptoms for many people with IBS.

    • If you think you do have a sensitivity to milk (abdominal pain and diarrhoea, especially after consuming milk), a trial period of a low lactose diet may be needed.  However, this needs careful consideration and it is important you discuss this with your dietitian.

    • If you are already avoiding lactose, discuss this with your team as a gradual re-introduction may be necessary to check your tolerance levels.


  1. Consider your dietary fibre intake

Consider adjusting the quantity of fibre you eat and whether this influences you symptoms

There are also differences between soluble and insoluble fibre.


Drugs, such as antispasmodics, laxatives, loperamide, tricyclics or SSRIs can also be useful to target specific symptoms. On line (see apps) or face to face psychological intervention may also be of benefit in IBS and other functional GI diseases.

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