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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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Home Treatment

For most people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), home treatment may be the best way to manage the symptoms. It is also helpful to learn all you can about IBS so you can better share your concerns and questions with your doctor.

Careful attention to diet, exercise, and stress management should help keep your symptoms under control. They may even prevent your symptoms from coming back.

Diet

In many people who have IBS, eating may trigger symptoms. But for most people, there is not a certain type of food that triggers symptoms.

Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can help control constipation. High-fiber foods include fresh fruits (raspberries, pears, apples), fresh vegetables (carrots, leafy greens), wheat bran, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Beans such as kidney, pinto, and garbanzo are also high-fiber foods. (So are vegetables such as peas, cabbage, and broccoli.) But they should probably be avoided if gas is one of your symptoms.

If you have trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, you can take a fiber supplement such as psyllium (for example, Metamucil) or wheat dextrin (for example, Benefiber). If you take a fiber supplement, start with a small dose. Then very slowly increase the dose over a month or more. Also, make sure to drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water.

You can take steps to make it less likely that certain foods will cause symptoms. For example, avoid or limit gas-producing foods (including beans and cabbage), sugarless chewing gum and candy, caffeine, and alcohol.

actionset.gifIrritable Bowel Syndrome: Controlling Symptoms With Diet

Exercise

Getting more exercise can make your symptoms less severe. Exercise also can improve your quality of life (especially how well you sleep, your energy level, and your emotional and social life).4

Getting more exercise doesn't have to be hard. In one study, people with IBS increased their activity level by adding 20 to 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, 3 to 5 days a week. They did activities such as swimming, jogging, cycling, and walking.

In the group that did not increase their activity level, more people had an increase in their IBS symptoms. These people weren't active, and their symptoms got worse.4

Stress

If stress seems to trigger your symptoms, these tips may help you better manage stress and avoid or ease some IBS episodes:

  • Keep a diary or journal of your symptoms as well as life events that occur with them. This often helps clarify the connection between symptoms and stressful occasions. After you have identified certain events or situations that bring on symptoms, you can find ways to deal with these situations.
  • Get regular, vigorous exercise (such as swimming, jogging, or brisk walking) to help reduce tension.
  • A hobby or an outside activity can provide a break from stressful situations.
  • Find a support group. In a support group, you can share with other people who have IBS.
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, hypnotists, counselors, social workers, and biofeedback specialists can provide methods for coping with stress.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 05, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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