IBS Awareness Month: Tips & Advice

April is IBS awareness month so we thought that we would put the spotlight on this often misunderstood condition and do a quick blog post to look at some helpful tips. 

IBS is a so called umbrella term that covers a whole host of symptoms that people experience. There is a huge variation in IBS between sufferers; for some it is a debilitating condition that affects day to day life, for others it might be an occasional problem. One person’s IBS is hugely different to another person’s experience of IBS.

Common symptoms include constipation, diarrhoea, cramping, frequent need to open bowels, bloating and wind.  

Nutritional therapy for each person will be individual, tailored to their main symptoms and past general dietary and lifestyle management tips, we would recommend getting an appointment with a registered dietitian through your GP if you are struggling to manage but here are a few general pointers that might prove helpful in the meantime:

- Regular mealtimes. Avoid skipping meals and try to stick to a routine with 3 meals a day plus snacks. Also ensure that you leave a gap of at least 2 hours between eating your evening meal and going to bed.

- Keep well hydrated, drinking plenty of water or other non-caffeinated drinks throughout the day.

- Chew your food well and eat slowly and mindfully. This will really help your body to digest your food.

- Limit caffeine consumption.

- Be careful with alcohol consumption; aiming for at least 2 alcohol free days per week and a maximum of 2 units per day.

- Steer clear of very spicy and very fatty food as both of these can be triggers for IBS symptoms. 

- Limit fresh fruit to 3 portions maximum per day. 

For those who suffer with wind and bloating it is worth keeping an eye on your consumption of pulses, beans and raw vegetables as these can worsen symptoms.

Fibre intake is also a tricky one and recommendations on the correct level of consumption will vary according to symptoms. As a rough guide fibre should be gently increased (alongside fluid) if you suffer from constipation but if diarrhoea is one of your symptoms then you might need to avoid certain high fibre foods to manage symptoms.  

For those who want to look in more detail at dietary management of IBS then talk to your dietitian about the FODMAP diet which has been shown to be hugely successful in the management of IBS for many people.  

Another factor that can play an important role in managing IBS is stress.  For many, this can be a trigger of symptoms and learning to effectively manage stress levels can prove really helpful in terms of symptom control.

If you think you are suffering with IBS, give the above general tips a go and if these don’t bring much relief then make an appointment with your GP to discuss symptom management.