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Nutrition Articles  ›  Special Concerns

Eating with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Symptoms, Treatment, and Tips

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
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General Eating Tips
  • Consume meals and snacks on a regular, consistent schedule. Avoid skipping meals. Try 5-6 smaller meals daily. The stomach is more sensitive when it is empty.
  • Chew thoroughly and eat at a leisurely pace. If you must eat in a hurry, serve yourself half portions.
  • Avoid swallowing excess air because this may trigger symptoms. Sip—don't gulp—your beverages, don't drink through a straw, don't talk while chewing, and eat with your mouth closed.
  • Drink 8 cups of water daily.
  • Ask your physician if she recommends taking Metamucil or Citrucel daily. Do NOT use the sugar free varieties, which may contain ingredients (artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, etc.) that aggravate IBS symptoms.
  • Carry Fibercon capsules when you have to unexpectedly wait too long between meals or wait at a restaurant.
  • Peppermint may help to relieve spasms. Try Altoids, hot mint tea, or peppermint oil capsules.
Tips for Eating Fiber
  • Slowly increase fiber in your diet to 25-35 grams per day. Include a variety of grains such as wheat, rye, barley, oat, farro, kamut, couscous, soy, and quinoa.  To learn more, read Figuring Out the Facts on Fiber.
  • Always eat soluble fiber first, whenever your stomach is empty. Make soluble fiber foods the largest component of every meal and snack. Foods rich in soluble fiber include: oatmeal, pasta, rice, potatoes, French bread, sourdough bread, soy products, barley, and oat bran. Nuts, beans, and lentils are also a good source of soluble fiber. However, nuts also include fat and lentils also contain some insoluble fiber.
  • Never eat insoluble fiber on an empty stomach, in large quantities at one sitting, or without soluble fiber. Foods rich in insoluble fiber include: wheat bran, whole grain products, and whole wheat products.
  • Limit fat intake to 25% of your total daily calories. Never eat high-fat foods on an empty stomach or without soluble fiber.
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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