Irritable Bowel Syndrome Ibs Diet

The consensus among medical professionals and nutrition specialists is that eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. More important is the need to view the dietary habits of people suffering from IBS in the broader context of their general lifestyle, emotional state and other contributory factors.

In order to eliminate foods that cause “flare-ups ” from an individual ‘s irritable bowel syndrome diet, the patient is asked to keep a food diary and note any particular items that appear to aggravate the condition. The physician may then refer the findings to a registered dietitian who will recommend appropriate changes to the IBS diet, tailored to the individual ‘s dietary requirements.

Often, all the patient has to do is to make a few simple food substitutions. For example, if a patient appears to be intolerant to the lactose content of certain dairy products (milk, in particular), a reduction in lactose intake coupled with the substitution of yogurt for milk may be all that is required.

Caution: Any “substitute ” food should contain sufficient nutrients and the alternative choice should not deprive the IBS sufferer of a properly balanced diet.

If you have IBS, you should avoid:

  • large meals (over-eating can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping)
  • excessive consumption of alcohol
  • caffeine
  • foods high in animal and vegetable fat (both fats stimulate strong colonic contractions and can cause intestinal cramping)
  • cabbage, beans and fruits that tend to cause bloating and gas.

How Useful is Dietary Fiber in IBS Treatments?

Although a high-fiber diet is recommended for the general treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, medical opinion is divided regarding its specific efficacy in IBS treatments. Those in favor contend that a high-fiber irritable bowel syndrome diet helps keep the colon slightly distended, which has the effect of reducing the occurrence of abdominal spasms and constipation.

Dietary fiber can be divided into two categories: soluble (dissolves in liquid) and insoluble. Soluble fiber is useful for controlling both diarrhea and constipation, whereas insoluble fiber tends to aggravate diarrhea. Most cereals, whole grain breads, vegetables and fruits contain insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can be found in oat bran and a natural vegetable fiber called psyllium. Brand names for psyllium include Perdiem®, Fiberall® and Metamucil®.

Of course, the bottom line is that a lot depends upon your personal physician or dietician. Some advocate a fiber-rich irritable bowel syndrome diet, whereas others believe that dietary fiber merely aggravates the condition. Most physicians agree, however, that bulking agents can play a useful role in IBS treatments.

Controlled portions of cereals, whole grain breads and pasta, brown rice, fruits, beans and vegetables are generally recommended, but consult your dietitian to find out how much you should include in your daily meals.

Caution: Do not purchase an off-the-shelf fiber remedy before discussing it with your physician.


American Association of Family Physicians. (updated 2003). Do certain foods cause IBS? AAFP Health Facts.

Beers, M.H.,