Skip to main content

Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) with Diet


It was the best of times and the worst of times. You had the best dinner with friends and family, but on the way home, the worst disaster struck.

Unfortunately, regular experiences like these may be the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS—not just a case of food poisoning or an allergic reaction.

About 10–15% of adults in the United States are affected by IBS. And only 5–7% of U.S. adults have received an IBS diagnosis. 

If you frequently have these symptoms, you may have IBS:

  • Crampy abdominal pain
  • Gassiness
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

It is possible to manage some of these symptoms to a degree by adjusting your diet. While no dietary guidelines work for everyone, here are some strategies to try to better manage the symptoms of an irritable bowel:

1. Identify trigger foods

Keep a food diary to monitor what you ate before you experienced the bloat and diarrhea. Track your daily symptoms in a diary for two to three weeks.

2. Don't skip breakfast

It truly is one of the most important meals of the day, especially for those with IBS issues. A meal in the morning helps stimulate the colon and leads to a bowel movement.

3. Experiment with meal sizes

Larger meals can trigger IBS, so try eating smaller meals more frequently. Instead of three big meals, aim for five or six regularly scheduled small meals a day.

4. Cut back on these foods

  • Insoluble fiber such as cereal, coffee, and chocolate are known foods that trigger IBS
  • Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, beans, onions, and dried fruit are foods that are hard to ingest
  • Fatty foods, particularly animal fat, contain a lot of inflammatory chemicals
  • Spicy foods are known to trigger IBS symptoms
  • Cereals, breads, and other processed foods made from wheat can also lead to trouble

5. Consume these foods

  • Water—and plenty of it
  • Certain foods rich in fiber such as oats, carrots, peeled potatoes, and linseeds
  • Carbohydrates low in FODMAPS
  • Probiotics

6. Cook homemade meals

Cooking from home gives you better control of the ingredients that go into your meal. This will help you avoid foods that trigger IBS.

7. Exercise

Regular exercise can improve bowel functions and help with bloating. If you sit down a lot, make sure to take breaks to get some movement.

8. See a specialist

While all of these suggestions can help you manage your IBS, it’s best to talk to your doctor, particularly if your symptoms change or get worse. You may even want to see a gastroenterologist (a specialist in digestive disorders) to get a better evaluation of those digestive organs and their juices. A registered dietician can help you manage your diet to set you on the right path to manage IBS.

Hopefully, with some changes to your diet and good management, you can bring back the best of times and reduce the distress of IBS.