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Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Woman drinking glass of water.

Your healthcare professional may suggest some lifestyle changes to help control your IBS. Changing your diet and managing stress are 2 of the most important. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and try some of the suggestions below.

Change your diet

Your diet may be an important cause of IBS symptoms. You may want to try the following:

  • Pay attention to what foods bother you, and stay away from them. For example, dairy products are hard for some people to digest. Lactose-free dairy products may be better for your symptoms.

  • Don't eat high FODMAP foods. Other common foods that can cause symptoms contain carbohydrates called FODMAPs. These are poorly digested by your body. High FODMAP foods include some fruits such as apples, vegetables such as cabbage, and some dairy. They also include certain sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, and xylitol. Many people find that eating a diet low in FODMAPs can ease symptoms. Talk with your healthcare provider about a low FODMAP diet.

  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

  • Don't have caffeine or tobacco. These are muscle stimulants and can affect the working of your digestive tract.

  • Don't drink alcohol. It can irritate your digestive tract and make your symptoms worse.

  • Eat more fiber if constipation is a problem. Fiber makes the stool softer and easier to pass through the colon.

  • Eat more fiber if diarrhea is a problem. Fiber also helps to bind water. This can help to firm up loose stool.

Reduce stress

If stress or anxiety makes your IBS symptoms worse, learning how to manage stress may help you feel better. Try these tips:

  • Identify the causes of stress in your life.

  • Learn new ways to cope with them.

  • Regular exercise is a great way to relieve stress. It can also help ease constipation. For adults, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. It also recommends muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week. If this sounds like a lot of time, the CDC suggests breaking physical activity into 10-minute blocks and spreading it out over a week. Developing a schedule that works for you is the key to a successful exercise program.

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.