IBS is not a life-threatening condition; however, it can affect your quality of life. While no treatment is likely to remove IBS symptoms completely, it can often help to ease symptoms, improve your bowel function and improve your quality of life.
Treatments of IBS can include dietary changes, lifestyle changes, psychosocial therapy and medicines.
Some people find that certain foods can trigger the symptoms of IBS. However, the specific foods that lead to symptoms can vary from person to person. Making the following changes in your diet may help to reduce symptoms:
- Increase soluble fibre in your diet (oats, wholemeal bread, fortified breakfast cereals)
- Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks
- Reduce processed foods in your diet, such as crisps, oven chips, biscuits and cakes
- Increase fluid intake (mostly water) to at least 8 cups each day
- Avoid the artificial sweetener sorbitol if you have diarrhoea
Specific diets have shown benefits for some IBS patients. These include
- The ‘low FODMAP’ diet – a diet that is low in certain fermentable sugars. This diet should be tried with the help of a dietician.
- The gluten free diet – a diet that excludes certain proteins that are found in many grains
Working with a dietician can be helpful to better understand your possible food triggers and identify diets that exclude certain foods to reduce these triggers.
General recommendations for IBS lifestyle changes include:
- Get regular exercise
- Get more sleep
- Psychological therapies
- Keep a daily diary for 2-4 weeks of your symptoms, what you eat, your medicines and your activities to identify and avoid things that trigger your IBS
Stressful situations, such as family problems, work stress or examinations, may trigger symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Psychological therapies can be effective for some people with IBS. Examples of psychological therapies are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy and psychotherapy.
Medications for IBS
Many medicines for IBS are available over-the-counter from pharmacies. However, remember that treatment of one IBS symptom may make another symptom worse. For example, medicines for diarrhoea can cause constipation and increase pain and bloating.
Speak to your pharmacist about the most suitable over-the-counter treatment for you.
Your GP may refer you to an IBS specialist if you have severe IBS symptoms and other medicines haven’t helped. At OneWelbeck, you can also refer yourself to our private centre to confirm your IBS diagnosis and find out how to treat and manage your symptoms.