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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

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Treatment Overview

Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will depend on the types of symptoms you have, how severe they are, and how they affect your daily life. No single type of treatment works best for everyone.

Learn all you can about IBS so that you and your doctor can work together to find out what may be triggering your symptoms. You will need to adapt your lifestyle to best deal with your symptoms and still carry on with your daily activities. Let your doctor know if parts of your treatment aren't helping your symptoms.

Record your symptoms

The first step in treating IBS usually involves watching and recording your symptoms, your bowel habits, what you eat, and other daily activities (such as exercise) that affect your symptoms. Writing all this down in a notebook for a few weeks can help you and your doctor see patterns of symptoms in your daily life. You may be able to see what things make your symptoms worse (such as eating dairy products) and start to avoid them.

Manage your symptoms

For some people who have IBS, certain foods may trigger symptoms. These tips may help prevent or relieve some IBS symptoms:

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Limit your intake of fatty foods.
  • If diarrhea is your main symptom, limit dairy products, fruit, and artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol or xylitol.
  • Increase fiber in your diet to help relieve constipation.
  • Avoid foods such as beans, cabbage, or uncooked cauliflower or broccoli to help relieve bloating or gas.
actionset.gifIrritable Bowel Syndrome: Controlling Symptoms With Diet

Here are some other steps you can take to help your symptoms:

  • Get some exercise, such as swimming, jogging, cycling, or walking. It can also improve your quality of life (especially how well you sleep, your energy level, and your emotional and social life).4
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke.
  • Take medicines. You may need medicine for cramping, diarrhea or constipation, depression, or anxiety.
  • Reduce stress, if stress seems to trigger symptoms.

To learn more, see Home Treatment.

Watch for new symptoms

Because IBS is a long-term problem, it's important for you to be aware of big changes in symptoms. For example, watch for blood in your stools, increased pain, severe fever, or unexplained weight loss. If any of these occur, your doctor may want to do more tests to find out if there is another cause for your symptoms.

Your doctor may also want you to try different medicines, or different dosages of your current medicines, if your symptoms aren't responding to treatment.

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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