I've Got IBS, What Can I Do to Improve My Symptoms?

If you've received an IBS diagnosis, you may be wondering what strategies you can try to ease symptoms. Here's a breakdown for you.

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By Laura Tilt

1 - Dietary strategies   

👉Certain foods, drinks & eating patterns can trigger IBS symptoms. These include alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, fatty foods & fibre. If you have IBS-D (diarrhoea) it can help to reduce some types of fibre, while if you experience IBS-C (constipation) eating more soluble fibre from foods like oats and linseeds can make your poo softer. It can also help to adjust eating habits – try not to skip meals, take your time eating and avoid meals late at night  

👉If these strategies haven’t helped, speak to a dietitian to assess whether you could benefit from a trial of the low FODMAP diet. A low FODMAP diet is a 3-step diet that will help you learn if FODMAPs (a group of poorly absorbed carbohydrates) are a trigger for your symptoms.  

2 - Lifestyle strategies    

👉Lifestyle strategies include looking at day-to-day habits including sleep, exercise, hobbies & work. Stress can make symptoms worse, and many people with IBS report flare ups when stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.   

👉Create space for rest, relaxation and good sleep. Some studies have found that yoga, mindfulness practice & gentle exercise help ease IBS symptoms. This might be because they can help manage stress and anxiety.  

👉Two other forms of therapy (CBT & gut directed hypnotherapy) have been shown to be effective in helping with IBS symptoms. These approaches are worth exploring if changes to your diet and lifestyle haven’t helped.   

3 - Medication   

👉Medications can target the movement of the gut, tummy cramps and gut sensitivity. In some cases, your doctor might discuss the use of a type of low-dose antidepressant which can help with pain. Have a chat with your GP to explore which options might be suitable for you. 

Remember, finding the right combination of strategies that brings your symptoms to a comfortable level will likely take some trial and error. Be patient with yourself, and don't hesitate to seek support from healthcare professionals along the way.