Irritable Bowel

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These may come and go over time.

Making changes to your diet and lifestyle, like avoiding things that trigger your symptoms, can help ease irritable bowel syndrome.

The main symptoms of IBS are:

  • stomach pain or cramps – usually worse after eating and better after doing a poo
  • bloating – your tummy may feel uncomfortably full and swollen
  • diarrhoea – you may have watery poo and sometimes need to poo suddenly
  • constipation – you may strain when pooing and feel like you cannot empty your bowels fully

There may be days when your symptoms are better and days when they're worse (flare-ups). They may be triggered by food or drink.


  • cook homemade meals using fresh ingredients when you can

  • keep a diary of what you eat and any symptoms you get – try to avoid things that trigger your IBS

  • try to find ways to relax

  • get plenty of exercise

  • try probiotics for a month to see if they help


  • do not delay or skip meals

  • do not eat too quickly

  • do not eat lots of fatty, spicy or processed foods

  • do not eat more than 3 portions of fresh fruit a day (a portion is 80g)

  • do not drink more than 3 cups of tea or coffee a day

  • do not drink lots of alcohol or fizzy drinks

A GP may refer you to an NHS dietitian if general diet tips for IBS, such as avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms, are not helping.

They can suggest other changes you can make to your diet to ease your symptoms.

Low FODMAP diet

A dietitian may recommend a diet called a low FODMAP diet.

This involves avoiding foods that are not easily broken down by the gut, such as some types of:

  • fruit and vegetables
  • milk
  • wheat products

Page last reviewed: 24-02-2021
Next review due:24-02-2024

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