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Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Care Instructions

Overview

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 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?

  • Prevent diarrhea:
    • Limit the amount of high-fibre foods you eat. This includes vegetables, fruits, whole-grain breads and pasta, high-fibre cereal, and brown rice.
    • Limit dairy products.
    • Limit sugar substitutes such as sorbitol and xylitol.
  • Avoid constipation:
    • 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.
  • To help relieve bloating or gas, avoid foods such as beans, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli.
  • 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 call 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 call 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

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.