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Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Care Instructions


Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a problem with the intestines. IBS can cause belly pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Most people can control their symptoms by changing their diet and easing stress.

No specific foods cause everyone who has IBS to have symptoms. Many people find that they feel better by limiting or eliminating foods that may bring on symptoms. Make sure you don't stop eating all foods from any one food group without talking with a dietitian. You need to make sure you are still getting all the nutrients you need.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

To reduce constipation

  • Include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day. These foods are high in fibre. Slowly increase the amount of fibre you eat. This helps you avoid a lot of gas.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Get some exercise every day. Build up slowly to at least 2½ hours of exercise a week.
  • Take a fibre supplement, such as Metamucil, every day if needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Check with your doctor before you increase the amount of fibre in your diet. For some people who have IBS, eating more fibre may make some symptoms worse. This includes bloating.
  • Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. Having a daily routine may help. Take your time and do not strain when having a bowel movement.

To reduce diarrhea

You may try giving up foods or drinks one at a time to see whether symptoms improve. Limit or avoid the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate
  • Nicotine, from smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Gas-producing foods, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and apples
  • Dairy products that contain lactose (milk sugar), such as ice cream and milk.
  • Foods and drinks high in sugar, especially fruit juice, soda, candy, and other packaged sweets (such as cookies)
  • Foods high in fat, including bacon, sausage, butter, oils, and anything deep-fried
  • Sorbitol and xylitol, sugar substitutes found in some sugarless candies and chewing gum

Keep track of foods

  • Some people with IBS use a daily food diary to keep track of what they eat and whether they have any symptoms after eating certain foods. The diary also can be a good way to record what is going on in your life.
  • Stress plays a role in IBS. So if you are aware that certain stresses bring on symptoms, you can try to reduce those stresses.

Keep mealtimes pleasant

  • Try to maintain a pleasant environment when you eat. This may reduce stress that can make symptoms likely to occur.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to eat, rather than eating on the go. Chew your food slowly. Try not to swallow air, which can cause bloating.

Where can you learn more?

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