IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is an unpleasant condition affecting the digestive system. It's commonly characterised by abdominal pain and changes in bowel movements, such as diarrhoea or constipation. Effective treatments vary from person to person, but the tips below should help manage any symptoms.
Eat slowly, chew your food properly and avoid very large portions. Eating quickly can mean you take in extra air, and big servings put pressure on your digestive system. So slow down and watch your portion size to reduce the workload for your digestive tract.
Keep a food diary and note when you get your symptoms – then use this to identify which foods or types of foods are the likely triggers. Nutracheck's online food diaryhas a special section to record how you feel. IBS is very individual so it's important to find your own trigger foods.
Probiotics are foods and supplements which contain 'good bacteria' which research has shown can aid digestive health and function. Some people with IBS have reported beneficial effects from taking probiotics – so these may be worth a try.
Our brain and gut are thought to be closely connected, so things which affect your brain such as stress and anxiety can also impact on your gut. This can mean symptoms of IBS are worse when you're stressed. So consider ways to manage your stress levels to help with your IBS.
There is evidence that exercise can ease the symptoms of IBS for some people. So ensure you're taking regular exercise to see if this helps you. It doesn't have to be a gym session, just a leisurely walk or swim can help.
Fibre plays an important role in digestion and depending on your symptoms you may need to increase or decrease the amount in your diet. If you suffer from diarrhoea, it may be helpful to reduce the amount of insoluble fibre in your diet – found in foods like wholemeal bread and nuts. If you have constipation, try increasing the soluble fibre in your diet found in foods such as oats, fruits and vegetables.
*Disclaimer: If symptoms persist it is important to speak to a medical professional to rule out any other possible causes.
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.