Finding the Right Diet for IBS
Expert Patsy Catsos, MS, RD, answers questions about eating for IBS.
Can probiotics or digestive enzymes help reduce symptoms?
The use of probiotic supplements may help reduce symptoms in the long run,
but I would encourage using a FODMAPS approach before introducing probiotics into the diet.
Lactase is the name of the enzyme that breaks lactose
(milk sugar) down to simpler sugars during digestion. Using milk products that
have been pre-treated with this enzyme, or taking an enzyme, are good
strategies for reducing symptoms. Naturally fermented foods, such as yogurt and
kefir and hard cheeses, contain less lactose than milk and may be better
In a nutshell, what are recommended foods for IBS sufferers?
Use lactose-free or reduced-lactose dairy products; small servings of
berries and citrus fruits; potatoes, rice, oats and corn products; lean meats,
fish and poultry; salad vegetables; and plant-based oils. When it comes to
sweeteners, small servings of granulated sugar and maple syrup are usually
Keep your diet as varied and colorful as you can tolerate. Remember, you can
probably tolerate small servings of your favorite high-FODMAPS foods. Even if a
whole bowl of grandma’s baked beans is out of the question, a little bite won’t
Are people with IBS at risk for nutrient deficiencies?
Some people with IBS eliminate entire food groups to control symptoms. These
very limited diets can cause weight loss and at the other extreme, weight
gain. Unfortunately, some people with IBS find that the “healthier” they
eat, with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk, the worse they feel.
All of these situations can put them at risk for vitamin and mineral
deficiencies, which is why it's important to have a registered dietitian help
with the best dietary plan.