Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Care Instructions
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a problem with the intestines that causes belly pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. The cause of IBS is not well known. IBS can last for many years, but it does not get worse over time or lead to serious disease.
Most people can control their symptoms by changing their diet and reducing stress.
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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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 diarrhea, limit or avoid:
- Caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate.
- Nicotine from smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Gas-producing foods, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, or apples.
- Dairy products that contain lactose (milk sugar), such as ice cream or 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. These are sugar substitutes found in some sugarless candies and chewing gum.
- To reduce constipation:
- Slowly increase the amount of fibre you eat. For some people who have IBS, eating more fibre may make some symptoms worse, including bloating. Adding fibre slowly may help you avoid these problems.
- Include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day. These foods are high in fibre.
- 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 Benefibre or Metamucil, every day if needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- 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.
- Keep a daily diary of what you eat and what symptoms you have. This may help find foods that cause you problems.
- Eat slowly. Try to make mealtime relaxing.
- Find ways to reduce stress.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your pain is different than usual or occurs with fever.
- You lose weight without trying, or you lose your appetite and you do not know why.
- Your symptoms often wake you from sleep.
- Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
- Your IBS symptoms get worse or begin to disrupt your day-to-day life.
- You become more tired than usual.
- Your home treatment stops working.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Y447 in the search box to learn more about "Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Care Instructions".
Adaptation Date: 8/18/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services