IBS and Diet Management

IBS and Diet Management

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterised by symptoms such as abdominal pain/stomach ache, bloating, and altered bowel habits. The direct relationship between diet and IBS is pivotal for effective long-term management of the condition. Our guide provides an overview of the most tried and tested diets for people with IBS and how they can impact your symptoms and overall experience with IBS. 

Read our complete guide on IBS.

Connection Between IBS and Diet 

Diet directly influences gut health, and for individuals with IBS, certain foods can trigger symptoms, while others may provide relief. This connection is crucial in developing a dietary strategy to manage IBS effectively. 

Elimination Diet 

An elimination diet is a targeted approach to identifying your specific trigger foods. 

An elimination diet involves strategically removing suspected food triggers from your diet. During the elimination phase, your symptoms can improve and may even disappear altogether if you have successfully identified your trigger foods. During the reintroducing phase, you can gradually reintroduce the foods that you originally eliminated to identify which foods trigger your IBS symptoms. 

There are varying levels of elimination diet. Some are less complicated and will simply involve removing a food or two, and some are extreme, requiring elimination of multiple food groups.  


  • Phase 1: Exclude potential irritants (e.g., dairy, gluten, certain fruits and vegetables) for several weeks. 
  • Phase 2: Carefully reintroduce foods one at a time, monitoring for any symptom recurrence. 

How can it help IBS? 

An elimination diet can help you pinpoint specific dietary triggers, it allows you to effectively remove those triggers from your diet which is essential for the long-term management of IBS. However, it is important to note that you may not need to undergo an incredibly strict elimination diet in order to do this.  

What symptoms can it help with?

Everyone’s IBS symptoms are different, however following an elimination diet can effectively reduce various IBS symptoms, particularly bloating, gas, diarrhoea, and constipation. 

Gluten-Free Diet 

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, can significantly impact individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), especially those with a sensitivity to gluten where it can cause inflammation of the gut. 

A gluten-free diet eliminates all sources of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, often beneficial for IBS sufferers with gluten sensitivity. 

Foods to Focus On 

  • Avoid: Wheat, barley, rye, and derivatives. 
  • Consume More: Gluten-free grains (e.g., rice, quinoa), fruits, vegetables, and gluten-free alternatives. 

How does a gluten free diet help with IBS? 

A gluten-free diet will help reduce IBS symptoms in those individuals who cannot effectively digest the fructans (a type of fermentable carbohydrate) found within gluten-containing foods. It can significantly reduce symptoms, or in some cases, eliminate them all together. 

What symptoms does it improve?

Particularly effective in alleviating bloating, abdominal discomfort, and irregular bowel movements. 

Read our guide on everything there is to know about gluten intolerance

Low FODMAP Diet 

FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates, which in some individuals, cannot be broken down and therefore, cannot be absorbed. When consumed, FODMAPs will typically reach the far end of your digestive system where they can be digested and fermented by our gut bacteria, leading to painful gas and bloating. As FODMAPs are also osmotic (they draw water towards them), high FODMAP consumption in individuals who are sensitive can lead to significant diarrhoea.  

High and Low FODMAP Foods 

  • High FODMAP: Includes foods like onions, garlic, apples, wheat, and dairy products with lactose. 
  • Low FODMAP: Safe options include certain fruits (e.g., bananas, grapes), meats, eggs, and specific vegetables (e.g., carrots, cucumbers). 

How does it help with IBS? 

Replacing high FODMAP foods can help to minimise gut fermentation, reducing gas production, bloating and fluid buildup than can cause diarrhoea. Once the reintroduction phase has been completed, you should be able to effectively identify the triggers for the IBS symptoms you experience and will allow you to avoid these to minimise symptoms.  

What symptoms can a low FODMAP diet improve?

Particularly effective for bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and constipation. 

High Fibre Diet 

A high fibre diet can be beneficial for managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), especially for those with constipation-predominant IBS. It is important to focus on the right type of fibre and gradually increase intake to avoid exacerbating symptoms. 

Research has shown that soluble fibre can improve the overall symptoms of IBS. 

Types of Fiber 

  • Soluble Fibre: This type of fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the gut, helping to soften stools and improve bowel movements. It's well-tolerated by people with IBS and can help both constipation and diarrhoea predominant IBS by thickening up a loose stool and softening a hard stool. 
  • Insoluble Fibre: Adds bulk to the stool which is essential in constipation predominant IBS. Too much of this can worsen diarrhoea, however. 

How does soluble fibre help with IBS? 

Soluble fibre helps regulate bowel movements and is beneficial for both constipation and diarrhoea-predominant IBS. 

Symptom Relief: Primarily targets constipation by softening stools and allowing them to be more easily passed. Soluble fibre intake should be gradually increased to start with to prevent symptoms such as bloating. 

Avoiding Known Trigger Foods 

Avoiding trigger foods is similar to an elimination diet, by removing or avoiding foods that trigger your IBS symptoms, you will significantly reduce the severity and frequency of your IBS symptoms overall. 

How to identify your trigger foods 

  • Food diary: Keeping a detailed food diary can help you identify individual triggers. Making a note of all the foods you have consumed daily as well as logging your IBS symptoms can help you to pinpoint your triggers. 

Common trigger foods 

Common trigger foods often include high-fat foods, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and processed foods. These foods can disrupt normal gut function, leading to increased symptoms. 

A food intolerance blood test kit can help you pinpoint your trigger foods by measuring how your body reacts to over 200 different types of food.

Foods that Help with IBS 

Managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be effectively supported by including certain foods in the diet that promote digestive health and alleviate symptoms. Some of the most beneficial types of food for IBS include: 

  • Lean Proteins 
  • Low FODMAP Fruits and Vegetables 
  • Lactose-Free Dairy or Alternatives 
  • Probiotic-Rich Foods 
  • Non-Caffeinated Beverages 
  • Healthy Fats 

These foods contribute to reducing irritation and inflammation in the gut, help to balance the gut microbiome, and improving bowel movements, all of which are crucial for managing IBS effectively. It is important to remember that beneficial foods will vary based on the individual, so monitoring and adjusting based on personal response is key in the management of IBS. 

What is the Best Diet for IBS? 

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the best diet for IBS; foods that may trigger your symptoms may not trigger symptoms in someone else. A highly personalised approach is the best diet to adopt to help with the management of your symptoms and overall experience with IBS.  

Understanding what foods trigger your symptoms, foods that your gut microbiome needs to aid your overall digestive health, and foods that you can consume with no digestive impact should be adopted by IBS sufferers.

Our gut health test can help to pinpoint which foods you should be eating more of, and which foods you should reduce or completely remove from your diet. Whilst there is no cure for IBS, testing your gut microbiome allows us to create an overall picture of your health and offer a tailored diet, nutrition and lifestyle plan around it to help reduce your symptoms.

Can You Cure IBS with Diet? 

Diet is a key element in managing IBS symptoms, but it's important to understand that IBS is a chronic condition, of which there is no cure for. While dietary changes can significantly improve quality of life and help to regulate symptoms, they are not a cure for IBS. These dietary strategies should be part of a comprehensive multifaceted management plan, also including a number of lifestyle changes. 

At present, there is not a cure for IBS, however; there are a number of IBS treatments that effectively help to reduce symptoms and allow sufferers to live normal active lives.

How long does it take to see improvements in IBS symptoms after dietary changes? 

The time frame can vary. Some people may notice improvements instantaneously or within a few days to a week, while for others, it might take several weeks to observe significant changes. 

Are there any risks associated with these IBS diets? 

Restrictive diets like low FODMAP or gluten-free can lead to nutritional deficiencies if not implemented correctly. It's important to undertake these diets under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian so they can ensure your daily nutritional intake is being met from other sources. 

Should people with IBS avoid dairy products? 

Not necessarily, while some individuals with IBS are lactose intolerant, others can tolerate dairy well. It is important to note that fermented dairy can be nutritious and beneficial for gut health, so eliminating it unnecessarily may be doing more harm than good. If you have identified dairy products, or a certain dairy product as one of your trigger foods, lactose-free dairy products or dairy alternatives can be good options for you.  

How important is hydration in an IBS-friendly diet? 

Hydration is crucial for digestive health and overall health. Adequate fluid intake can help manage constipation and ensure the proper function of the digestive system. 

Can stress and diet together influence IBS symptoms? 

Yes, stress is one of the biggest influencers of IBS symptoms and may affect dietary choices. Managing stress and following a suitable diet can be highly effective in controlling IBS symptoms. 

Is it necessary to permanently follow a restrictive diet for IBS? 

Not always. Some diets, like the low FODMAP and elimination diet, are meant to be temporary. The goal is to identify triggers and establish a long-term, sustainable diet that incorporates both effective symptom management with nutritional needs. 

How do I balance eating out or social dining with an IBS-friendly diet? 

Planning ahead, choosing restaurants with suitable options, and communicating dietary needs to the restaurant can help manage IBS while dining out. With the growing influence of dietary requirements, restaurants are now better resourced than ever to accommodate your dietary needs. 

In Summary 

Managing IBS through diet requires an understanding of how different foods affect individual symptoms. There is not one size fits all when it comes to treating IBS in individuals, what may be a food that provides relief from symptoms, may trigger someone else's.

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