A guide to irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition of the digestive system that may result in a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. The foods that may help people to manage IBS vary greatly, however many people with IBS find some foods do influence their symptoms.

IBS is a condition affecting the digestive system. Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Wind
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Bloating

The symptoms of IBS are also common in other bowel conditions. It is important to consult a doctor who can rule out other conditions before diagnosing IBS.

IBS may occur in up to 30 percent of the population, more commonly in females. It can occur at any age, but more often occurs before the age of 40 years. The cause is often unclear, however in some cases IBS may occur after an episode of gastroenteritis or food poisoning.1

Diet and IBS

The foods that help to control the symptoms of IBS will be different for different people, however the following ideas may help make IBS more manageable:

  • Eat more fibre-containing foods
  • Eat less gas-producing foods such as:
    • onion
    • cabbage and brussels sprouts
    • dried beans and lentils
    • cauliflower
  • Eating less foods with lactose (milk sugar) such as:
    • milk
    • ice-cream
    • some yoghurts
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Having less food and drinks with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sorbitol and manitol.

In some people, food intolerance or sensitivity may worsen the symptoms of IBS.

An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can provide individual, expert dietary advice to help manage the symptoms of IBS and ensure foods eaten meet nutritional needs.
  1. The Gut Foundation, http://www.gut.nsw.edu.au/Content/Irritable_Bowel_Syndrome_1.aspx