In many cases, simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can provide relief from irritable bowel
syndrome. Although your body may not respond immediately to these changes, your goal is to find
long-term, not temporary, solutions:
July 31, 2014
Experiment with fiber. When you have irritable bowel syndrome, fiber can be
a mixed blessing. Although it helps reduce constipation, it can also make gas and cramping
worse. The best approach is to slowly increase the amount of fiber in your diet over a
period of weeks. Examples of foods that contain fiber are whole grains, fruits, vegetables
and beans. If your signs and symptoms remain the same or worse, tell your doctor. You may
also want to talk to a dietitian.
Some people do better limiting dietary fiber and instead take a fiber supplement that causes
less gas and bloating. If you take a fiber supplement, such as Metamucil or Citrucel, be
sure to introduce it slowly and drink plenty of water every day to reduce gas, bloating and
constipation. If you find that taking fiber helps your IBS, use it on a regular basis for
Avoid problem foods. If certain foods make your signs and symptoms worse,
don't eat them. These may include alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated beverages such as coffee
and sodas, medications that contain caffeine, dairy products, and sugar-free sweeteners such
as sorbitol or mannitol.
If gas is a problem for you, foods that might make symptoms worse include beans, cabbage,
cauliflower and broccoli. Fatty foods also may be a problem for some people. Chewing gum or
drinking through a straw can lead to swallowing air, causing more gas.
Eat at regular times. Don't skip meals, and try to eat about the same time each
day to help regulate bowel function. If you have diarrhea, you may find that eating small,
frequent meals makes you feel better. But if you're constipated, eating larger amounts of
high-fiber foods may help move food through your intestines.
Take care with dairy products. If you're lactose intolerant, try substituting
yogurt for milk. Or use an enzyme product to help break down lactose. Consuming small amounts of
milk products or combining them with other foods also may help. In some cases, though, you may
need to stop eating dairy foods completely. If so, be sure to get enough protein, calcium and B
vitamins from other sources.
Drink plenty of liquids. Try to drink plenty of fluids every day. Water is
best. Alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine stimulate your intestines and can make
diarrhea worse, and carbonated drinks can produce gas.
Exercise regularly. Exercise helps relieve depression and stress, stimulates
normal contractions of your intestines, and can help you feel better about yourself. If you've
been inactive, start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you exercise. If you have
other medical problems, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Use anti-diarrheal medications and laxatives with caution. If you try
over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications, such as Imodium or Kaopectate, use the lowest
dose that helps. Imodium may be helpful if taken 20 to 30 minutes before eating, especially
if you know that the food planned for your meal is likely to cause diarrhea.
In the long run, these medications can cause problems if you don't use them correctly. The
same is true of laxatives. If you have any questions about them, check with your doctor or
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