Promoting Good Bowel Health with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

What is IBS?

IBS is a disorder of the colon (large intestine) where the bowel overreacts to a mild stimulus such as dietary, hormonal, psychological or genetic factors. Symptoms experienced include abdominal pain which is relieved after a bowel movement, bloating, frequent gas, diarrhoea and constipation.  IBS is quite common as one in five people are affected by the condition and it is twice more common in women than men.


Nutrition tips for people who suffer from IBS:

  1. Take your time when eating your food. Sit down and chew your food well.
  2. Eat regular meals: Aim to consume 3 balanced meals and 2-3 healthy snacks per day. It is important to eat regular meals to prevent overindulging at main meal times.
  3. Do not skip meals  as you will be more likely to overeat at the next meal time. It is also important to eat and drink to provide energy and nutrients to the body so that it can carry out vital functions such as repair damaged cells and tissues and maintain body temperature.
  4. Drink at least 8 glasses of fluid per day especially water and non-caffeinated drinks such as herbal teas as high amounts of caffeine may cause diarrhoea.
  5. If you predominantly experience constipation increase fluid and fibre intake gradually to allow your body to adjust to the changes and to prevent abdominal cramping.
  6. If you predominantly experience diarrhoea and bloating a high fibre diet can worsen symptoms so aim to maintain/reduce fibre consumption. Avoid/reduce dried fruit, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetable skins and spicy foods.
  7. Limit gas forming foods such as pulses, onions, green vegetables.
  8. Reduce/avoid alcohol as it is fermented from yeast which may trigger IBS symptoms.
  9. Probiotics may be of benefit but the role is not yet fully evaluated as scientists continue to investigate the role of them in many health conditions. Probiotics are live ‘good’ bacteria that can be found in fermented milk and yoghurt products or purchased as supplements in capsules or powdered form.  Probiotics improve the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract as they fight off ‘bad’ bacteria.
  10. Check the sorbitol content of foods/medications as it can cause diarrhoea. Sorbitol is an artificial sweetener often found in sugar free foods.
  11. Make time to relax for example read a book, go for a walk, have a bath or massage.


What is the low FODMAP diet?

If you have IBS you may have heard of or tried the ‘low FODMAP diet’. FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.  This consists of 3 stages:


  1. Elimination phase of high FODMAP foods which may trigger IBS. These foods include wheat, rye, onion, garlic, pulses, green vegetables, apple, pear, sugar-free chewing gum, milk, yoghurt.
  2. Reintroduction phase occurs 4-8 weeks after the elimination phase to review symptoms.
  3. The final stage is designing a long term management plan.

The reintroduction phase is very important to determine what foods trigger your IBS.  IBS symptoms and triggers are individualized so it is very rare that all high FODMAP foods trigger your IBS symptoms. It is important to identify your triggers as excluding all of these foods from the diet long term can do more harm than good. It is recommended to see your GP, a registered nutritionist or a dietician if you wish to try the low FODMAP diet.



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