What can I do to feel better?

Patients with IBS are advised to:

  • Monitor symptoms5: Start a diary to keep track of what you eat each day, what you are doing, and how you are feeling. It will then be possible to determine if anything you eat or do is influencing the symptoms.
  • Diet changes5: Patients with IBS should stop eating foods that might aggravate IBS symptoms. Many clinicians recommend temporarily eliminating milk products since lactose intolerance is common and can aggravate IBS. Lactose containing food products should be eliminated for two weeks; if IBS improves, it is reasonable to continue avoiding lactose. Otherwise lactose might be resumed.9

Several foods are only partially digested in the small intestine. When they reach the large intestine, further digestion by intestinal bacteria takes place, which may cause gas and cramps. Eliminating these foods temporarily is reasonable if gas or bloating is bothersome. The most common gas-producing foods are, for example, beans, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. In addition, some people have trouble with onions, celery, carrots, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes, sprouts, and wheat. In a diet called FODMAP diet, foods containing carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by the intestines are completely avoided. This can lead to an improvement of symptoms. Experts recommend avoidance for 6-8 weeks and then gradually reintroduce categories to identify food causing symptoms.10

  • Increasing dietary fibers1: Patients with IBS can eat more fibre , e.g. fruit and vegetables, although there is no clear evidence for improvement with this therapy. However, soluble fibre supplementation (e.g. ispaghula) seems to be demonstrably beneficial in patients with mild symptoms.10 
  • Exercise: Patients with IBS should do something active for 20 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week. Studies show that this helps improve IBS symptoms.10

Please consult your healthcare professional for further information.
Last update: October 2015

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