cutting vegetables

Dietary advice

Can Diet Changes Help IBS?

Changing the diet can help some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but there is no easy ‘one-size fits all’ approach. The general rule is that eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is just as important for someone with IBS as it is for the general health of the population.

  • Eat regular, small meals

Try to avoid long gaps between eating and missing meals. Taking time to eat and not eating too much at a time may help if you have IBS.

  • Watch what you eat and drink

Rich, fatty or spicy foods can make symptoms worse in some people. Drink plenty of water (at least eight cups of fluid a day) and limit your intake of caffeinated and fizzy drinks. This includes tea, coffee and colas.

  • How much fibre?

There are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble – and you need a bit of both in your diet. Soluble fibre is found in foods like apples, oats, beans, and lentils. Insoluble fibre is found in wholegrain or granary breads, brown rice and pastas. Getting the balance right between the two types may be helpful in managing IBS symptoms.

  • What about dairy foods?

Some people find it difficult to digest lactose (the sugar found in milk) and may find wind and diarrhoea are a problem if they eat too many dairy-based foods. Moderating the intake of milk, cheese, cream, and chocolate may help.

  • Avoid gum and sweeteners

If you suffer from diarrhoea, then cutting back on food and drinks containing the artificial sweetener sorbitol may help. Sorbitol is found in chewing gum, sugar-free sweets, drinks, some slimming products and foods made for diabetics.

  • Get your oats

If constipation is more of a problem, then eating oats (as in oat-based cereals and porridge) or linseed may be helpful (up to one tbsp a day).

  • Keep a food diary

Try keeping a food diary for a week or two and note down what you eat and drink. This may help you identify if there is one food or drink in particular that makes your symptoms worse. You can then moderate how much of this you ingest.

  • Seek advice

The most important thing to remember, however, is to make sure that you do not cut out whole food groups from your diet. If you are in doubt about how changing your diet can help you, please ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietician.