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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. Some 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. Eat a variety of different foods to make sure you are still getting all the nutrients you need. Talk to a dietician if you want to make sure you're getting enough nutrition.

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 constipation

  • Check with your doctor about increasing the amount of fibre you eat in your diet. 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.
  • Take a fibre supplement, such as Benefibre or Metamucil, every day if needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • 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.
  • Use sugar substitutes found in some sugarless candies and chewing gum, such as sorbitol and xylitol.
  • Get some exercise every day. Build up slowly to at least 2½ hours of exercise a week.
  • 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 and symptoms

  • Some people with IBS use a food diary and symptom journal 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.
  • to track bowel patterns and symptoms, check out the Bowel and Symptom Journal.
  • Visit and enter "bowel journal" into search box.
  • 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.
  • For more information, see Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • Visit and enter "Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)" into the search box.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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