Q&A: IBS and diet: What you need to know
Everybody has an unruly stomach now and then. But people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can face symptoms that disrupt their lives.
Melissa Barry, RD, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, answers questions about this common disorder—and how to help control it with diet.
Q. What is IBS?
It’s a problem that affects the large intestine. IBS can cause abdominal cramping, bloating and a change in bowel habits. Some people have diarrhea, and some have constipation. Others alternate between having both. There’s no test to diagnose IBS. So often you’re said to have it when symptoms last for at least three months.
Q. Can symptoms be eased?
Yes—and making dietary changes is one of the best ways to help control symptoms, though no one diet helps everyone. It may help to eat at regular times; have small, frequent meals; gradually increase your fiber; and drink plenty of water. Eating foods with probiotics—such as yogurt and a fermented drink called kefir—may help too.
Q. Do certain foods make IBS worse?
Some can. It may help to limit fatty foods, some milk products, foods that cause gas, alcohol and drinks with artificial sweeteners. Keeping a food diary can also help you tell if certain foods make your symptoms worse. You may also want to ask your doctor or a registered dietitian about what’s called a low-FODMAP diet. It eliminates certain foods tied to symptoms of IBS and may be beneficial.