Return to Index
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Ways to Manage Your Symptoms
- Keep a food diary and avoid those foods that cause symptoms.
- Eat foods that can help firm up stools, such as cheese and bananas.
- Consider foods that stimulate bowel movements, such as high-fiber foods, fruits, and prune juice.
- Consider a fiber supplement to help soften your stool and make bowel movements easier.
- Consider stool softeners.
- Keep a food diary and avoid those foods that cause gas. Foods that commonly cause gas are:
- Legumes (beans)
- Fructose and sorbitol in beverages
- Dairy products
- To help reduce gas caused by legumes, try Beano.
- If dairy products cause gas, take the lactase enzyme when eating dairy foods, or try lactose-free milk or substitute yogurt for milk.
- Try simethicone to reduce gas accumulation.
- Place hot or cold packs on your abdomen.
- Limit caffeine.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Counseling to help develop coping skills
Other Lifestyle Changes
- Keep a food diary, listing what you eat and what the reaction is. Discuss the findings with your doctor or dietitian.
- Make gradual changes to your diet and record the results.
- Avoid foods that have provoked symptoms more than once. A dietitian can help you choose substitutes for offending foods.
The following foods and drinks may provoke symptoms:
- High-fat foods
- Spicy foods
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream)
- Legumes (dried beans, such as chickpeas, black beans, lentils, kidney beans, and others)
- Other gas-producing foods
- Large amounts of alcohol or caffeine
- Sweetening agents, such as sorbitol and fructose (check the fine print on the food label)
Eat foods that may reduce the risk of spasm, such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains and other high-fiber foods (Note: Until your body adjusts, more fiber may increase gas and bloating; increase your fiber intake slowly and drink lots of fluids. Talk with your healthcare provider about the proper amount of fiber you should have in your diet.)
- Eat smaller meals more often or smaller portions, rather than eating a few large meals.
- Eat slowly and try not to swallow air.
- Drink more water to help reduce constipation.
When to Contact Your Doctor
American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://www.acg.gi.org. Accessed March 3, 2006.
American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org. Accessed March 3, 2006.
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.fascrs.org. Accessed March 3, 2006.
Fauci AS, Braunwald E, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2000.
7/16/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Dorn SD. Systematic review: self-management support interventions for irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 May 22. [Epub ahead of print]
4/22/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Johannesson E, Simrén M, et al. Physical activity improves symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jan 4. [Epub ahead of print]
- Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 12/2013
- Update Date: 00/11/2013