6 Diets to Help Relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Modifying your diet is essential if you want to control symptoms of and relieve irritable bowel syndrome, one of the most common diseases today. Learn more in this article.
6 Diets to Help Relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Do you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome? If so, you may need to modify your eating habits to control your symptoms. In this article, learn about 6 types of diets that can help relieve irritable bowel syndrome.

This disease is most common in women under 45 years old. However, there are also men and older people who suffer from it. This condition, which affects the large intestine, can generate abdominal colic, gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Even though irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a very common condition, the exact causes are not clear at present. If you suspect that you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, go to your doctor for an evaluation.

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Diets to relieve irritable bowel syndrome

The symptoms can be very annoying, so to get them under control, specialists often suggest changing your diet. However, there is no consensus on the best diet to control symptoms. As a general rule, the following are the most common recommendations:

  • Do not eliminate foods from your diet unless there is a medical reason for it.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks.
  • Limit your consumption of fatty foods.
  • Increase your fiber intake.
  • Do not eat large meals.
  • Drink two to three liters (at least 6-8 glasses) of water per day.
  • Avoid eating legumes, cruciferous vegetables, and other foods that produce gas.
  • Eliminate tobacco and alcohol from your diet.

It’s worth pointing out that each person’s diet must be personalized to his or her specific gastrointestinal needs when trying to control and relieve irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, you must see a medical professional before modifying your diet.

Here are some common tips and ideas.

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1. The low FODMAP diet can help relieve irritable bowel syndrome

Fodmap diet: diets for irritable bowel syndrome
The low FODMAP diet involves reducing the consumption of simple carbohydrates that can trigger symptoms.

Among the many diets that can help relieve irritable bowel syndrome, the low FODMAP diet is one of the most popular. This is a diet based on limiting your consumption of short-chain carbohydrates: oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and fermentable polyols.

How does reducing the consumption of these foods help control the symptoms of and relieve irritable bowel syndrome? Well, it’s very simple: Many people do not absorb these components in their small intestine, so they continue to the colon where they feed bacteria and generate symptoms.

Some research argues that avoiding the above carbohydrates can reduce discomfort by preventing the fermentation of food by bacteria. However, there are no conclusive studies that can prove this theory.

At the beginning of 2019, the Spanish Society of Digestive Pathology announced that, after the first phase of severe restriction of FODMAP for between 4 to 8 weeks, it is advisable to reintroduce the restricted food groups one by one. This way, you can check your tolerance to each ingredient and develop a personalized diet that’s as least restrictive as possible.

Note: Due to the restriction of some important foods, this diet must be carried out under specialized medical supervision. The possible benefit-risk should be assessed according to the person.

2. Lactose-free diet

If your doctor suspects a lactose intolerance, you might be able to partially exclude dairy products from your diet. You may do this for up to two months, then reintroduce the foods and observe the patient’s reactions.

In many cases, problems with dairy metabolism can lead to experiencing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. As a result, a lactose-free diet might be a good option to improve the condition of the patient.

3. Gluten-free diet

Woman rejecting pieces of bread relieve irritable bowel syndrome

Cutting out gluten completely may help control irritable bowel symptoms.

According to different studies, approximately 30% of people with Celiac disease previously received diagnoses of IBS. For this reason, in the case of suspected gluten sensitivity or allergy, the doctor may decide to exclude foods that contain gluten. As a result, your doctor will be able to tell if gluten was triggering your IBS symptoms.

4. Diet for constipation

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome with chronic constipation, some specialists may recommend that you include foods rich in insoluble fiber. As a result, you will help accelerate the intestinal transit of the foods you eat. This diet includes plenty of vegetables and whole grains.

When your problem consists of alternating episodes of constipation with diarrhea, you should incorporate the regular intake of soluble fiber into your diet. Soluble fiber is present in foods such as oats, barley, seeds, and fruits.

5. Diet for diarrhea

Person sitting on the toilet

Some people may experience periods of constipation followed by episodes of diarrhea.
Among the diets for irritable bowel syndrome we must mention an option to control diarrhea.

Diarrhea tends to be a very common symptom in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Also, it requires great care due to possible problems with malabsorption of essential nutrients.

If you have diarrhea regularly, you should avoid drinking coffee and alcohol, since they are both intestinal stimulants. The same goes for dairy. However, you must include other sources of calcium in your diet, such as soy milk.

6. Recommendations from health organizations to relieve irritable bowel syndrome

It’s impossible to make a list of recommended foods that will work for all people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. To reiterate, an IBS diet has to be personalized for each individual since the type of intestinal response of each patient is different and the food triggers of symptoms are also different.

However, below we will present a selection of foods that professionals often recommend, restrict, and prohibit. This list from the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service of the Hospital Clinico Universitario de Valladolid (Castilla y León, Spain).

Restricted food

  • Bluefish
  • Cold cuts
  • Legumes

Forbidden foods

  • Flatulent vegetables, such as cauliflower or broccoli
  • Whole fat and dairy cheeses
  • Red meats and sausages
  • Bread
  • Butter and margarine
  • Spicy foods and ingredients
  • Storebought sauces
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated drinks

Note: These are food recommendations, so the patient’s prior tolerance should be assessed. Some of the “safe” foods may be bothersome. Remember that these listings are not 100% suitable for everyone.

Before making changes to your diet, visit your doctor to talk about whether a different diet would be right for you. An irritable bowel syndrome specialist will be the right person to design your diet based on your symptoms and personal needs.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Altobelli E., Negro V., Angeletti PM., Latella G., Low FODMAP diet improves irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a meta analysis. Nutrients, 2017.
  • Carmo MS., Santos CI., Araújo MC., Girón JA., et al., Probiotics, mechanisms of action and clinical perspestives for diarrhea management in childres. Food Funct, 2018. 9 (10): 5074-5095.
  • Varjú P., Gede N., Szakacs Z., Hegyi P., et al., Lactose intolerance but not lactose maldigestion is more frequent in patients with irritable bowel syndrome than in healthy controls: a meta analysis. Neurogastroenterol Motil, 2019.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.