How to Adjust Your Diet when You Have IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause distressing symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal cramps that interfere with your daily life. Identifying and avoiding foods that aggravate your symptoms is key to managing IBS.

If you’ve been diagnosed with or have symptoms of IBS, it’s vital to discuss helpful dietary changes with a health professional like digestive specialist Vikram S. Jayanty, MD. As a gastroenterologist, Dr. Jayanty possesses more than three decades of experience evaluating, diagnosing, and treating conditions that affect the digestive system, including IBS.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

There’s no doubt about it. Living with IBS is frustrating. Symptoms can strike seemingly out of nowhere and disrupt work, school, and social activities. You may find yourself scheduling your day around bathroom breaks, or apprehensive about leaving the house.

IBS is a cluster of symptoms that occur together. For some people diarrhea is the predominant symptom (IBS-D), while constipation (IBS-C) is a primary symptom in other cases. Some people have mixed symptoms of constipation and diarrhea. Other IBS symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite loss

IBS is usually life-long, but symptoms may change over time.

Diet and lifestyle changes that can improve IBS symptoms

Here are some lifestyle changes that help manage IBS flares.


Stress is a well-known trigger for IBS flares. Taking care to manage your stress can help control flares. If you live a fast-paced lifestyle, stress and worry may be contributing to your IBS symptoms, as the brain and gut are intimately connected.

IBS symptoms are caused by interactions between the neurological system, gut muscle contractions, and psychological variables. This is called the gut-brain axis. Try these stress-busting tips:

  • Make time for rest and relaxation
  • Try mindfulness techniques
  • Try yoga
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Schedule a massage
  • Engage in relaxing exercise

Sometimes it’s also necessary to delegate things to others so you aren’t taking on too much.

Specific dietary adjustments

The following are dietary changes that can bring relief and help manage IBS.

Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine stimulates intestinal activity, which can exacerbate your symptoms. Take note of your caffeine intake from all sources, and don’t forget that caffeine is also found in chocolate, cola, and other soft drinks.

Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol can worsen diarrhea and stomach discomfort.

Cut down on resistant starches. These are starches that are difficult to digest in the small intestine. As a result, they reach the colon unchanged and are fermented by the bacteria in your intestine.

This creates gasses and waste products, causing bloating, wind, and diarrhea symptoms. People living with IBS react to smaller dosages of resistant starches than non-IBS sufferers.

Reduce foods high in FODMAPs. Many people with IBS find significant symptom relief when following a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

FODMAPS are types of carbohydrates found in various foods. They’re responsible for the gas and other gastrointestinal symptoms that commonly occur after eating foods like beans. Apples, plums, and wheat are other examples of high FODMAP foods.

Change fiber intake. Fiber may help some people improve their symptoms. Others may find that adding fiber helps to alleviate symptoms. Adjust your fiber intake based on your unique symptoms.

Reduce fructose intake. Fructose is another type of carbohydrate that can cause issues when consumed in rich amounts. Because fructose isn't always effectively absorbed, it can contribute to IBS symptoms.

Avoid sorbitol. Sorbitol is a poorly absorbed sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect once it reaches the colon. It’s found in diet foods, gum, and sugar-free candies to name a few. Even small amounts of sorbitol trigger symptoms in some people with IBS.

IBS is challenging to live with, but with the right treatment approach, you can alleviate and manage symptoms and reduce the impact IBS has on your daily life.

For the very best in digestive care, give our team a call to schedule a visit for a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Jayanty, or book online today. Helping you feel and function better is our number one priority.

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