Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Diet Plan And Treatment

Medically reviewed by Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN Alexandra Dusenberry Alexandra DusenberryMS, RDN twitter_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gut disorder, and the symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and/or constipation. If you have been suffering from IBS for long, you must consider changing your diet and lifestyle to ease the symptoms. Medicines will help to a certain extent, but a better knowledge of what foods are allowed and what foods are not will help you get lasting relief from IBS.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet

1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a long-term disorder of the intestines that leads to belly pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.

The causes of this disorder are yet unknown. However, it is believed to be related to inflammation of the digestive tract lining, changes in the sensitivity of nerves of the intestines due to genetic problems, gastrointestinal tract infections, family history of colon cancer, etc.

The symptoms of IBS are constipation, diarrhea, excess gas, abdominal pain, bloating, GI tract infection, undue weight loss, mucus in stools, etc. Some people experience all of these while others experience only a few of these symptoms. IBS does not lead to serious diseases, but the symptoms are quite painful.

The muscles in our intestines contract and relax in waves. This is called peristalsis, and it is responsible for pushing out the waste in the form of feces. For people suffering from IBS, the normal rhythmic waves are disrupted due to ineffective communication between the brain and the digestive tract. Sometimes, the bowel contracts too much, leading to swift movement of food through the intestines, which results in diarrhea. At other times, the intestinal muscles contract very slowly or without relaxing, thereby causing constipation.

IBS can be treated with anti-diarrheal, anticholinergic, antispasmodic, and antibiotic medicines. Changing the diet and lifestyle also aid in the treatment of IBS.

2. Irritable Bowel Syndrome Sample Diet Plan

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Sample Diet Plan
Image: IStock
MealWhat To Eat
Early MorningOptions:
  • 1 glass warm water
  • Probiotic drink
  • Aloe vera juice
  • Oats with fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Scrambled egg with 1 slice of white bread
  • Chicken stew with carrots, spinach, and green beans
  • Cucumber soup
Post- Lunch1 small cup low-fat or fat-free yogurt
Evening Snack1 glass apple juice (strained) with fennel seeds
  • Steamed salmon
  • Rice noodles or pastaMashed sweet potato with poached chicken breast

 This diet plan includes the recommended foods for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. If you are lactose intolerant, you can opt for soy milk instead of fat-free or low-fat milk. If you are gluten sensitive, buy products that are marked gluten-free. Drinking a probiotic drink or aloe vera juice in the morning will help soothe your stomach. Fennel seeds also have a cooling effect. Make sure you drink enough water and fruit juice (strained).

3. Foods To Eat

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet - Foods To Eat
Image: IStock

a. Soluble Fiber

A high fiber diet is generally considered suitable for almost everyone suffering from IBS. However, this is not true in all cases. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.

  • During the digestive process, soluble fiber dissolves in water, turns into a gel and slows digestion. Soluble fiber is found in fruits like avocados, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, grapefruit, tangerines, and pears. It is also found in breakfast cereals containing psyllium, oat bran, oatmeal, barley, white potatoes, and asparagus.
  • In spite of being healthy, insoluble fiber is generally hard on the intestines in people suffering from IBS. Insoluble fiber moves quickly through the colon, thus aggravating diarrhea-predominant IBS.
  • People suffering from IBS should resort to foods with soluble fiber. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are a good source of soluble fiber, but they are also gas producing. Therefore, these should be taken in appropriate quantities so that they do not aggravate the symptoms.
  • Plant-based foods, such as grains and vegetables, contain both soluble and insoluble fibers. Those suffering from IBS can increase the soluble fiber in particular.

Though IBS diet largely includes foods with soluble fiber, it is recommended to eat a variety of foods in moderation without eating too much of one particular food or too much food at one time.

While high intake of soluble fiber is recommended for diarrhea-predominant IBS, those suffering from constipation-predominant IBS are required to be more aggressive in their dietary pattern. They are required to take three to six or more daily portions of soluble fiber in their meals and snacks. The portions should be moderated and spread throughout the day to avoid excess gas and discomfort.

Fruits like apples, peaches, plums, papayas, avocados, nectarines, apricots, mangoes, and pears that are high in fructose or sorbitol and may be trigger foods for some people. They are excellent sources of soluble fiber and should be included in the diet.

b. Low FODMAP Foods

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo Di Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short chain carbs are easily fermented and cause more fluid to enter the large intestine. This results in bloating, gas formation, and diarrhea. The foods that are high in this type of carbohydrate chain are honey, legumes, cherries, soybeans, beans, full-fat dairy, wheat, onions, and garlic. These foods should be avoided to prevent stomach or GI tract inflammation and irritation.

c. Water

Water is very important for normal, healthy digestion. It is essential to drink two to three liters of water each day.

d. Grains

You can eat white rice, oats, barley, and quinoa. However, if you feel any discomfort, stop consuming any of the above immediately.

e. Proteins

You can have eggs, fish, chicken breast, lean cuts of turkey and beef, soy, mushroom, and lentils.

f. Vegetable And Fruit Juices

Drink a good amount of vegetable or fresh fruit juice every day. Make sure you strain the juice before drinking it to avoid consuming the seed or peel, which may aggravate the symptoms of IBS.

g. Other Foods

You can have flour tortillas, white bread, pasta, and noodles.

h. Supplements

Those suffering from IBS may experience vitamin or mineral deficiency. Your doctor may prescribe calcium, vitamin D, or vitamin B12 supplements. Do consult your doctor first before taking these supplements.

4. Foods To Avoid

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet - Foods To Avoid
Image: IStock

There are certain foods that act as trigger foods, which aggravate or worsen the IBS symptoms. The most common among these foods are fatty foods like fried foods, heavy restaurant meals, fatty meat, and vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, legumes, whole grains, eggs, nuts, and seeds.

Following are some of the common trigger foods which should be restricted in the diet if not completely avoided.

a. Whole Milk And Dairy

Whole milk and other dairy products are often responsible for interfering with the normal digestive process of many people suffering from IBS. Avoid full-fat milk or yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, ice-creams, creamy soups, sauces, puddings, etc.

b. Foods High In Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber does not work well for IBS patients, particularly those with diarrhea-predominant IBS. Foods that have a high content of insoluble fiber, such as whole wheat pasta, wheat germ, popcorn, millets, quinoa, whole grain bread, whole nuts, and seeds, may trigger IBS symptoms.

c. Wheat

Wheat and wheat flour contain a protein called gluten that some individuals find difficult to digest. Common trigger foods include white and whole wheat bread, crackers, cereals, pasta, and baked foods.

d. Raw Vegetables

Those suffering from IBS should stick to cooked vegetables as raw vegetables are bad for their bowels. Besides, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage can be troublesome even if they are cooked and then eaten.

e. Fatty Foods And Red Meat

Fatty or fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, fried fish and red meat are equally bad for IBS patients. Therefore, it is better to replace the hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs or sausages with poultry, fish, and other lean meats for protein.

f. Beans And Lentils

Beans and lentils are difficult to digest for people with IBS as they often cause gastrointestinal effects, bloating, cramping and diarrhea.

g. Onion And Garlic

Onion and garlic might harm the digestive tract. Replace them with milder ingredients like herbs, olive oil, and simple sauces that do not aggravate IBS.

h. Sweeteners

Sugar and spices are not good for IBS patients. Different sweeteners containing fructose, such as sugar and honey, fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup, or an alcohol sweetener like sorbitol, maltitol, or mannitol can harm the intestinal tract. Hence, avoid candies, chewing gum, or any beverage containing these sweeteners. Also, avoid fruits that contain sorbitol like apples, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, prunes, cherries, and nectarines.

i. Carbonated, Caffeinated, and Alcoholic Beverages

Fizzy beverages and carbonated drinks like soda can make you feel gassy. Besides, alcohol also proves to be a culprit in aggravating IBS symptoms in a few people. Some people experience IBS after drinking caffeinated coffee, teas, and soft drinks.

j. Chocolate

Despite the fact that dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants, it may trigger IBS symptoms in some people and cause digestive discomfort. Hence, they should find a substitute for chocolates and other foods containing chocolate.

k. Condiments

Condiments make nutritious dishes more delicious, but they have little to offer in terms of nutrition. In fact, some condiments such as ketchup, pickles, soy sauce, chutneys, and barbecue sauces are likely to aggravate IBS symptoms.


Not all “recommended foods” will act the same way with every patient. Some foods will not aggravate any symptom whereas some others will, depending on the quantity, time of the meal, etc. To identify which foods are causing irritation, keep a food journal and record the foods and their quantities that you can eat or cannot eat.

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Recipe

 Cooling Cucumber Soup

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet Recipe - Cooling Cucumber Soup
Image: IStock

 What You Need

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 tomato
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt

How To Prepare

  1. Chop the cucumber and tomatoes (remove seeds) into small cubes.
  2. Scoop out the avocado and cut it into small cubes.
  3. In a soup pot, add about one inch of water and let it come to a boil.
  4. Add the chopped cucumber and tomato to the boiling water and cook for about three minutes.
  5. Transfer the veggies with the water to a steel bowl.
  6. Add the avocado cubes to the bowl.
  7. Grind the fenugreek and fennel seeds and
  8. add the powder to the bowl.
  9. Add a pinch of salt and blend with the help of an immersible blender.
  10. Drizzle a little olive oil on top.

Benefits Of This Recipe

Cucumber, fenugreek, and fennel seeds have a cooling effect on the GI tract and stomach. Tomato, though slightly acidic, can be eaten in small quantities. Avocado and olive oil are good sources of fats that don’t irritate the GI tract lining. This soup is easy to make, takes less time, and can be enjoyed either cold or hot.

6. Lifestyle Changes

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet - Lifestyle Changes
Image: IStock

In addition to a proper diet, routine is equally crucial for individuals suffering from IBS. The time, type, and quantity of food intake should be as consistent as possible. Apart from including the above-mentioned foods in your diet, good sleep, quiet time to relax and relieve stress, and regular physical activity are also key to success.

  • Exercise

Exercise plays an important role if you are suffering from IBS. Exercise daily for a minimum of 30 minutes. First, warm up and stretch, and then start walking. Interval walking is the best way to increase your stamina and keep the energy flowing. You can also run on the treadmill. Strength training is another way to increase metabolism and energy expenditure.

  • Avoid Stress

Stress is the underlying cause of many diseases or disorders, IBS being one of them. Hence, avoid any factor that causes stress. If you feel stressed out, either start running on the treadmill or practice a few yoga asanas. Try not to procrastinate. It is one of the major causes of stress.

  • Eat Right

Eat frequent but small meals throughout the day. Eat recommended foods and avoid spicy and fatty foods. Peel the fruits and veggies before eating or juicing them. Check the labels while buying canned foods from supermarkets. Cook your food at home.

  • Early To Bed, Early To Rise

Go to bed early so that you can have a good seven-hour sleep and yet not be late for office or school. You will have time in the morning for exercise and breakfast as well. These two are very important when it comes to your well-being.

  • Avoid Alcohol And Smoking

Both alcohol and smoking have been found to aggravate IBS symptoms. Therefore, it is best to avoid alcoholic beverages as well as smoking.

Though IBS is a long-term condition, it can be effectively controlled by making a few changes in your diet and lifestyle, such as avoiding foods that aggravate the symptoms, getting regular exercise, and managing stress. Diet is the primary form of treatment for diarrhea patients, but it is more difficult to treat constipation by diet alone. Consult your doctor immediately and get a thorough checkup done if you are suffering from irregular bowel movement and pain.

If you know any other foods or lifestyle changes that will help alleviate the symptoms of IBS, share with us by commenting in the box below.

Cheers to health!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the conventional treatment for IBS?

Irritable bowel movement is a gastrointestinal disorder that is chronic in nature. As it introduces itself as a usual stomach upset, it is better to treat it the conventional way initially. IBS is a result of all the unhealthy junk we put in our system. In initial stages, it can be controlled through simple lifestyle changes that include the right diet, regular exercise, fluid consumption, and relaxation. Doctors generally prescribe a high soluble fiber diet for people suffering from IBS. Certain vegetables, fatty meat, dairy, and caffeine aggravate this condition, and so, should be avoided. Eating small, moderate, and regular meals helps control IBS.

What is the role of psychology in IBS?

Stress has been cited as one of the major reasons of IBS. Research shows that 40% of patients suffering from IBS have demonstrated symptoms of psychological illness. Stress, anxiety, and depression lead to frustrated eating, resulting in chronic conditions, IBS being one of them. An irregular sleep cycle caused by hypertension is also another reason for bowel imbalance. When a person is not mentally stable, it eventually affects the body’s cycle. Thus, psychological issues play a major role in the occurrence of IBS. Right food, proper care, relaxation, and psychological stability can control IBS for good.

Why do you suggest homeopathy for IBS?

Homeopathy is a holistic treatment with no side effects. IBS is a long­term disorder, and homeopathy has been proved to cure it. Homeopathy medicines are prescribed for different symptoms seen during IBS. It is a combination of muscle relaxants and focused doses for constipation and abdominal cramps. Homeopathy medication not just addresses the bowel symptoms but also works on the psychological stability, which is often the root cause of IBS. The prescription is based on peculiar symptoms that differ from person to person. Homeopathy could be a long­term cure for IBS, and there have been cases where the disorder was completely cured.

How is stress related to IBS?

Stress causes negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and depression. When the mind is not stable, people indulge in emotional eating and suffer from sleep disorders. All of this takes a toll on the system, leading to IBS and other chronic problems. When stressful, one tends to eat junk and consume caffeine and alcohol. These foods aggravate bowel imbalance, worsening the condition. Thus, stress is closely associated and is often the root cause of IBS. Research proves that 40% of people suffering from IBS have shown symptoms of psychological illness. The treatment to control IBS also suggests psychological intervention for better results.

Can IBS be life threatening and cause of some other gastric disorder?

Though Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not life threatening, it can be extremely discomforting and painful. IBS is a long­term disorder, which can lead to migraines, depression, fibromyalgia, and severe abdominal pain. The symptoms also include sudden diarrhea or immense constipation, and at times both. This causes bloating of the stomach and gastric disorders. Unbearable cramps in the lower part of the belly can disrupt your day­to­day activities. If not treated in the initial stages, it can get worse, causing unnatural weight­loss and urinary problems. IBS does not lead to severe colon conditions or colon cancer. It can be cured with conventional treatment or homeopathy.

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Alexandra Dusenberry is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a certified personal trainer based in San Diego, California. She has 6 years of experience and works with clients around the world to help them reach their health and fitness goals.

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