Published on March 16, 2017

Q&A: Diet can help ease IBS symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) isn’t a disease.

It’s a cluster of unpleasant symptoms that affect the colon. No one knows exactly what causes IBS. But we do know that diet can ease—or worsen—symptoms.

Michelle BrownMichelle Brown, RD, CDE, Clinical Nutrition Manager at Mercy Philadelphia, answers some questions about diet and IBS.

What are the symptoms of IBS?

Symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation or episodes of both. People also often have bloating and gas, mucus in their stools, and pain in the lower belly. You should call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms for three months or more.

What are some dietary changes that might help control symptoms?

Try switching over to five or six small meals a day. Drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. If constipation is a problem, eat more fiber—like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have diarrhea, you may want to choose foods with less fiber.

Are there foods I should avoid?

I’d suggest limiting chocolate and acidic foods, like tomatoes. Also limit foods that are very spicy, such as hot sauce, and foods that are greasy or fried. You should also start keeping a list of foods that give you problems when you eat them.

Could seeing a dietitian help?

Yes. A dietitian could help you plan meals and make gradual changes to your eating habits.