Irritable Bowel Syndrome and its Role in Your Diet

July 1, 2019
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is currently one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders among people. It's important to keep an eye on your diet in order to keep it under control.

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, then you might feel insecure about continuing with your regular routine. However, controlling your diet is a great way to prevent outbreaks, discomfort, and pain.

This is why we’d like to give you some tips on how to improve your diet if you have irritable bowl syndrome.

What’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. Its main symptoms are abdominal pain or discomfort, abdominal swelling and altered bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea).

This syndrome is the most frequently diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder and the second cause of work absenteeism. Statistics place it just behind the common cold. Between 10-20% of the population experience irritable bowel syndrome symptoms at some point throughout their lives. However, only 15% of those afflicted consult a doctor about it.

A Diet to Control the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A smiling woman posing with a green drink.
You can control Irritable Bowel Syndrome effectively by making changes in your diet.

The diet for those with irritable bowel syndrome should be designed on a case-by-case basis. However, here are some general guidelines:

  • Moderate your consumption of insoluble fiber so as to not contribute to imbalances in intestinal transit. Common sources of insoluble fiber are beans, whole wheat and bran products, green beans, potatoes, cauliflower, and nuts.
  • Increase your consumption of soluble fiber in your diet. Consume plenty of vegetables that aid in your digestive health. In addition, oats and oatmeal, legumes such as peas, beans, lentils, barley, fruits and vegetables such as oranges, apples, and carrots are all great sources of soluble fiber.
  • Lower your consumption of fatty foods.
  • Decrease the consumption of fructose and choose fruits with less sugar and more pectin such as whole apples. Also, reduce your intake of fruit juices.
  • Eliminate your consumption of artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, coffee, and tea.
  • Try to drink about two liters (8 glasses) of water a day. Proper hydration is important during episodes of diarrhea. Also, drink linden tea, also known as lime-flower tea, and vervain (Verbena bonariensis) infusions. These have no laxative effect. In addition, a sufficient supply of liquids will also help you with constipation.

Read also: The Benefits of Ginger & Chamomile Tea for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the FODMAP Diet

The FODMAP diet was developed by researchers at Monash University in Australia. FODMAP is an acronym derived from “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols” These are all short-chain carbohydrates.

Thus, the FODMAP diet has little or no fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols, which are usually present in these foods:

  • Fruits such as apples and pears.
  • Vegetables like onion, asparagus, and garlic.
  • Legumes like peas, soybeans, and lentils.
  • Cereals such as wheat and its derivatives, as well as rye and barley.
  • Nuts.
  • Dairy products including milk, cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. You may evaluate your tolerance of these.
  • Artificial sweeteners, usually processed products containing sorbitol (E420), mannitol (E421), isomalt (E953), maltitol (E965) and xylitol (E967), etc.

The Relationship between IBS and the FODMAP Diet

A representation of FODMAP
The acronym FODMAP refers to foods that you should either avoid or reduce in your diet if you have irritable bowel syndrome.

Oligosaccharides, disaccharides, fermentable monosaccharides and polyols can’t be entirely absorbed by the small intestine in some people. Therefore, these non-absorbed molecules get to the large intestine, where they feed the colonies of bacteria that regularly populate it.

Then, the bacteria ferment the FODMAPs and this can lead to symptoms such as pain or cramps, constipation, diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea, changes in bowel movement habits, gas and bloating, food intolerance, fatigue and difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and depression.

That’s why a diet low in FODMAP could help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as well as other intestinal inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis and even Crohn’s disease.

Read also: Infusions to Alleviate the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What do the Studies Say?

Following the first study in 2005, there were several studies conducted to assess the possible effect of the FODMAP diet on irritable bowel syndrome.

As usual, some research confirms the positive effects of this diet on people with IBS and provides evidence to the use of the FODMAP diet as a treatment. However, there are other studies and health professionals who disagree with the utility of this diet in the treatment of this condition.

The skepticism around this diet is due to the fact that there’s little evidence to support it. In addition, the studies available so far are limited.

In spite of this, you may speak to your doctor or nutritionist about the design and monitoring of a diet that can suit your needs.


  • Decher N, Krenitsky J. Tratamiento Nutricional médico en los trastornos intestinales, capítulo 29. En Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL.
  •  KRAUSE Dietoterapia. Edición en español de la decimotercera edición de la obra Krause`s Food and the Nutrition Care Procces. Ed. Elsevier. Barcelona, España 2013.
  •  El-Salhy M, Gundersen D. Diet in irritable bowel síndrome. Nutrition Journal 2015; 14:36.
  •  Gibson PR, Shepherd SJ. Evidence-based dietary management of funtional gastrointestinal symptoms: the FODMAP approach. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2010; 25: 252.
  • Magge, S., & Lembo, A. (2012). Low-FODMAP Diet for Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology & hepatology8(11), 739-45.