Nutrition Articles

Eating with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Symptoms, Treatment, and Tips

528SHARES
Imagine experiencing severe abdominal pain, along with alternating bouts of both constipation and diarrhea. Even worse, your doctor can find no physical explanation or effective treatment for you, despite these very real symptoms. Unfortunately, this is a very real scenario for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Symptoms & Diagnosis
Common symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, feeling bloated, flatulence or gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, and mucus in the stool.

When you have IBS, diagnostic tests typically reveal no physical abnormalities in the colon that might explain your symptoms. So, IBS is usually diagnosed by a process of elimination. A diagnosis is made after symptoms have been continuous or recurrent for at least 3 months and other diseases (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) have been ruled out.

Treatment
When managing IBS, experts have seen much greater treatment success when the "team approach", which includes a physician, dietitian, and psychiatrist/psychologist, is implemented.

Because food, eating, and cooking habits can be very complex, SparkPeople strongly suggests that you see a qualified dietitian for both nutrition and diet therapy. Making different food choices and changing eating habits can help with symptom relief, but it's important to determine what works for each individual.

Therefore, keeping a diary is vital. Use it to record when symptoms occur, what you ate around the time of the occurrence, as well as activities and emotional feelings. This diary will help everyone—you, the dietitian, and other health professionals together—to both identify specific concerns and also to develop an appropriate plan.
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528SHARES

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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I suffered with IBS (dumping syndrome) for over 12 years. I was afraid to eat anything anywhere but home. Then about 4 years ago, I broke my big toe and when it wasn't healing the way it should, the doctor told me to take a high dose of calcium. It wasn't long before I realized that the IBS episodes were decreasing but I didn't make the connection until one of the women in my knitting group complained about not being able to take calcium as it caused constipation. Bingo!! I take 1000 mg of calcium every morning and while I still have an occasional session they are rare. - 7/10/2014 9:58:24 AM
  • COOPERREID
    Thanks for the information it was helpful. - 1/21/2014 5:24:22 PM
  • LOVE2000AMGLAM
    My number one trigger by far is stress.
    I tried cutting out various veggies, but one long weekend when I was by myself I just couldn't resist them any more. I ate many of the things I was avoiding, and then nothing happened. I figured it was because I could actually relax and not worry about work stuff. After that I just ate whatever veggies I wanted and worked on reducing stress instead. - 12/12/2013 10:19:34 AM
  • Had a very serious case of diverticulitis which cost me 2-4 feet of my lower intestine. I can't eat too much fiber (even though diets want you to). Most of what you're supposed to eat i don't like. I have cut down on the amount of meat eaten, eat less dairy and eat few veggies/fruit. Am finding losing weight virtually impossible. Ideas anyone? - 10/29/2013 2:47:57 PM
  • Too much fiber is a trigger for me. I started a new diet that calls for a lot more fruit/veg. All of a sudden, my IBS is back. Mine goes back and forth between the D & C symptoms. I try to up my yogurt intake and limit fiber when I am having a flare up. - 9/8/2013 7:15:32 PM
  • Thanks for good info about IBS. Just got diagnosed with diverticulosis after a cat scan.Have had intermittent IBS for over 30 yrs. I'm pretty much sensitive to everything right now. Hard to exercise because of pain but I keep trying! I keep eating less but crave soft carbs because my brain thinks they won't hurt in the digestion process. My blood sugars don' t like this. This is like a bad chemistry experiment! I was better at Biology! - 7/4/2013 8:17:57 PM
  • I don't have IBS but I know that if I eat anything with artificial sweeteners, I have terrible tummy problems. I have learned to read labels carefully because that stuff (especially Sucralose) can be lurking in the most unexpected places. - 5/28/2013 9:39:14 AM
  • also, I have found that eating 2 tablespoons of coconut each day helps control some of the gas that I deal with after every meal. coconut macaroons would work, but coconut milk does not. so I add coconut to my mix of banana and oranges. - 4/13/2013 4:06:06 PM
  • my trigger seems to be fatty meats. 80% ground beef, fried foods, and greasy burgers are the biggest culprits. also basil and fancy pepper blends. so I am careful about not eating ground beef but ground chicken or turkey instead, and avoid heavily peppered steaks and mostly stay with chicken and fish. - 4/13/2013 4:04:24 PM
  • I found a major component in my IBS was eliminating the calcium pills that I had been taking for so many years... I had a bone scan and it was normal so I eliminated the extra calcium over and above what was in my vitamin pills and my food intake.
    All of a sudden my constipation was normalized!!! I am still taking konjac root before each meal to supplement fiber. But life is so much better. - 3/30/2013 2:24:14 PM
  • ARIES-SC
    I found that taking natural Apple Pectin 2 capsules in the morning and 2 capsules in the evening did the trick for my IBS. I tried everything and nothing else worked. I recommend eating turnip greens (better than spinach) and sweeet potatoes for softer output on a regular basis and drink lots of water (at least 64 oz/day). - 9/11/2012 9:31:31 PM
  • Most people who eliminate wheat from their diets find almost immediate and permanent relief. - 4/10/2012 8:50:44 PM
  • MIKAELATEACH
    VIEVIE63 Be careful with diet foods. They tend to contain artificial sugars which can lead to IBS issues as well as pudding may contain dairy...another trigger for some people. I find that I can't eat ANY diet foods as they all contain artificial sugar which messes me up big time! - 2/7/2012 6:20:32 PM
  • So true, that what works for one does not work for all. tracking your food is such a help to find your own personal triggers.

    After a lot of experimentation and tracking, I found that wheat is the primary cause of my IBS. Other trigger foods for me are skim milk, some corn products, and sometimes brown rice. Luckily no issues with meat or fat for me, as being vegetarian does not agree with me.

    I followed similar dietary recommendations That are in this article for many years with no relief... Made it worse for me (especially fiber & whole wheat/grains). It wasn't until I paid attention and really noticed what was happening in my body that I finally kicked this IBS thing! Hope you all can do the same! - 9/28/2011 3:56:10 PM
  • I've had IBS for 30 years. What works one year may not work another. From 2005-2006, I lost 60 pounds from the big D & IBS. - 5/25/2011 12:40:18 AM