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Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that causes a variety of symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, gas, cramping, and bloating. Most people can manage symptoms with diet changes, but there are some medications available to help treat symptoms as well. You can also try supplements and use stress management techniques to treat IBS.

Changing Your Diet

Keep a food diary. Start keeping a food diary to keep track of what you eat and how it makes you feel. You can use your food diary to identify the foods that tend to trigger your IBS symptoms and use that information to avoid trigger foods in the future.In your food diary include things like:

  • what you ate
  • how much you ate
  • when you ate
  • how you felt one to two hours after eating


Foods that you should limit or avoid include:

  • certain fruits such as apples, blackberries, apricots, cherries, nectarines, mangoes, pears, watermelon, or plums
  • canned fruits
  • fruit juice
  • dried fruit
  • certain vegetables such as artichokes, cabbage, garlic, lentils, cauliflower, mushrooms, asparagus, beans, onions, snow peas , and sugar snap peas
  • dairy products
  • wheat
  • rye
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey

Eat regular meals. Having an irregular eating pattern can also contribute to IBS symptoms, so try not to skip any meals or eat meals that are spaced too far apart. Maintain a regular meal schedule and try to eat about once every three hours during the day.

  • Avoid eating large meals as well. Large meals may also contribute to IBS symptoms, so try to eat four or five small meals throughout the day.

Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated can also help to combat some of the symptoms of IBS. Aim to drink about eight 8 ounce glasses of water every day. If you exercise or have an active lifestyle, then you may need to drink more.

  • Steer clear of fizzy water and other carbonated beverages. These can make IBS symptoms worse.

Reduce alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can irritate your digestive system. They may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation. Try to reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol from your diet and see if your symptoms improve.

  • For example, instead of having two cups of coffee in the morning, just have one. Or, instead of having a martini with dinner, have a glass of water.

Limit processed foods. Processed foods tend to contain the types of sugars that are hard for your body to digest and may pass through your system without getting broken down.Eating these foods may cause your IBS symptoms to flare up.

Eliminate artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners that end in “ol” may make your IBS symptoms worse if you tend to get diarrhea, so it is important to avoid these. These sweeteners are common in chewing gum and diet products, such as slimming shakes. Get into the habit of reading labels to make sure that none of the foods you are eating contain these sweeteners. Some of the sweeteners to avoid include:

  • xylitol
  • maltitol
  • sorbitol
  • mannitol

Managing Stress

Exercise more. Regular exercise can help to stimulate your digestive system and reduce your stress levels as well. Try to incorporate at least 150 minutes of activity every week. For example, you could go for a 30 minute walk five days of the week to meet this goal.

  • Try yoga. Yoga can provide some good exercise and allow you time to relax.

Express your feelings. Not having an outlet to express your feelings can contribute to stress and worsen IBS symptoms, so try to find an outlet for your emotions. Find healthy ways to deal with your emotions, such as:

  • calling a friend
  • writing in a journal
  • drawing
  • talking to a counselor

Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing exercises can provide an almost instant sense of calm when you are feeling stressed. Try to practice deep breathing throughout the day to manage your stress.

  • To practice deep breathing, focus on using your diaphragm to pull air down into your abdomen. As you breathe in, count to five slowly. Then, hold the breath for a few seconds and release while counting down from five.

Set aside some time for you each day. Ensuring that you take time to focus on yourself is also essential for managing stress. Make sure that you set aside at least 20 minutes every day to do something that you want to do. For example, you could:

  • read a book
  • take a bubble bath
  • watch an episode of your favorite show
  • listen to some music
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