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    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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    Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    Diet and Lifestyle Changes

    Usually, with a few basic changes in diet and activities, IBS will improve over time. Here are some tips to help reduce symptoms:

    • Avoid caffeine (in coffee, teas, and sodas).
    • Add more fiber to your diet with foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
    • Drink at least three to four glasses of water per day.
    • Don't smoke.
    • Learn to relax, either by getting more exercise or by reducing stress in your life.
    • Limit how much milk or cheese you eat.
    • Eat smaller meals more often instead of big meals.
    • Keep a record of the foods you eat so you can figure out which foods bring on bouts of IBS.

    Common food "triggers" are red peppers, green onions, red wine, wheat, and cow's milk. If you're concerned about getting enough calcium, you can try to get it from other foods, like broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, tofu, yogurt, sardines, salmon with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice and breads, or calcium supplements.


    The following types of drugs are used to treat IBS:

    Antispasmodics can control colon muscle spasms, but experts are unsure that these drugs help. They also have side effects, such as making you drowsy and constipated, that make them a bad choice for some people.

    Antidiarrheal drugs, such as Imodium, may help with diarrhea.

    Laxatives can give short-term relief from constipation.

    Bulking agents, such as psyllium, wheat bran, and corn fiber, help slow the movement of food through the digestive system and may also help relieve symptoms.

    Antidepressants may also help relieve symptoms in some people.

    Linaclotide (Linzess) is a capsule you take once daily on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before your first meal of the day. It helps to relieve constipation by helping bowel movements happen more often. It’s not for anyone 17 years old or younger. The drug's most common side effect is diarrhea.

    Lubiprostone (Amitiza) can treat IBS with constipation in women when other treatments have not helped. Studies haven’t fully shown that it works well in men. Common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and belly pain. More serious side effects may include, fainting, swelling of the arms and legs, breathing problems, and heart palpitations.

    Make sure to follow your doctor's instructions when taking IBS medications, including laxatives, which can be habit forming if you don’t use them carefully.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 09, 2016
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