Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Diet, lifestyle and medicines

There's no single diet or medicine that works for everyone with IBS. But there are lots of things that can help if you've been diagnosed with it.

General tips to relieve IBS symptoms

Do

  • cook homemade meals using fresh ingredients when you can
  • keep a diary of what you eat and any symptoms you get – try to avoid things that trigger your IBS
  • try to find ways to relax
  • get plenty of exercise
  • try probiotics for a month to see if they help

Don't

  • delay or skip meals
  • eat too quickly
  • eat lots of fatty, spicy or processed foods
  • eat more than 3 portions of fresh fruit a day (a portion is 80g)
  • drink more than 3 cups of tea or coffee a day
  • drink lots of alcohol or fizzy drinks

You can buy a card or key from The IBS Network shop or Disability Rights UK shop that can help you access public toilets if you get symptoms while away from home.

How to ease bloating, cramps and farting

  • eat oats (such as porridge) regularly
  • eat up to 1 tablespoon of linseeds a day
  • avoid foods that are hard to digest – like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, beans, onions and dried fruit
  • avoid products containing a sweetener called sorbitol
  • ask a pharmacist about medicines that can help, like Buscopan or peppermint oil

How to reduce diarrhoea

  • cut down on high-fibre foods, like wholegrain foods (such as brown bread and brown rice), nuts and seeds
  • avoid products containing a sweetener called sorbitol
  • ask a pharmacist about medicines that can help, like Imodium (loperamide)

If you keep getting diarrhoea, make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

How to relieve constipation

  • drink plenty of water to help make your poo softer
  • increase how much soluble fibre you eat – good foods include oats, pulses, carrots, peeled potatoes and linseeds
  • ask a pharmacist about medicines that can help (laxatives), like Fybogel or Celevac

The IBS Network has more about diet and IBS and IBS medicines.

See a GP if:

  • diet changes and pharmacy medicines aren't helping
  • you need to avoid lots of different foods to control your symptoms

They may refer you to a dietitian or specialist for advice and can also suggest other treatments to try.

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2017
Next review due: 09/10/2020