I’m getting more and more clients who come to me for help with IBS. It’s a frustrating condition affecting the large intestine and characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Having the symptoms of IBS basically dictate what sort of day you’re going to have and what you can do or not do is really hard for people. The condition affects up to one in seven North Americans, and there is no cure.

We used to believe that ‘IBS’ was a catch-all term for recurring abdominal symptoms that really had no rhyme or reason. We now know, though, that IBS may be caused by an overly-sensitive GI tract, and that certain diets and foods may help to relieve symptoms. Thank goodness for progress!

Here are my top five tips for managing IBS symptoms:

Consider FODMAPS

FODMAPS – or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols – are short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are found naturally in some foods.

Research has shown a strong association between FODMAPs and IBS symptoms, and the FODMAP diet may help IBS sufferers pinpoint exactly which FODMAP foods cause them issues. Your IBS symptoms may be due to an intolerance to one or more FODMAPS.

The FODMAP diet, which is a 6-week elimination diet – should be done under the direction of a registered dietitian to ensure that it’s done correctly. If your symptoms are really disruptive to your life, I strongly suggest that you try the FODMAP diet. Here’s more information about it.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil has muscle-relaxing qualities, and has been shown to relieve (and here, here, here) some of the symptoms associated with IBS.

You guys know how I am super-critical of a lot of supplements, but IBgard is a product that I trust. It uses peppermint oil in capsule-form to help alleviate the symptoms of IBS and it has good research behind it to prove its efficacy.

IBgard comes in capsules that contain microspheres, and with the product’s Site Specific Targeting, the effective ingredient makes it all the way beyond the stomach and into the small intestine without losing effectiveness. You take 1-2 capsules before or after eating, up to three times a day, and it can start working in up to 24 hours.

Do a Food and Symptom Journal

I know it’s a total pain to write down everything you eat, but I’m always surprised at how many of my clients who suffer from gut symptoms don’t take this important step. Writing down everything you eat, and then recording symptoms as they occur, can help you pinpoint which foods trigger your IBS. I’d recommend doing at least a month or two of food and symptom recording, and bringing them to your health professionals to see if they can work with you to identify any foods that are causing you problems. If there are any suspects, eliminate them from your diet to see if your symptoms improve.

Here’s a food and symptom journal template that you can download.

Make more of your own food

Cooking for yourself ensures that you know exactly what’s in your food. If you’re eating in restaurants or getting takeout a lot, you might be eating a lot more fat and triggering ingredients than could be exacerbating your IBS. Cook simply, avoiding fried and higher-fat foods which may aggravate your symptoms.

To help with inflammation and just with overall health, include lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and any other fresh foods that you can tolerate (obviously if you’re on the FODMAP diet or can’t tolerate anything, don’t just eat it because you think you need to). Stay away from ultra-processed junk.

Eat on a schedule

IBS rarely responds well to a really full stomach or poor food choices, both of which you may get if you don’t eat regularly. Waiting until you’re starving to eat can lead to overeating and a full stomach may overstimulate your digestive system. If you’re really hungry and desperate to eat, you may also make poor food decisions. Low-fiber, highly processed, fatty and greasy foods may cause symptoms to flare.

Disclosure: I was compensated by IBgard to write this post. But as you know, I would never endorse, recommend, take money from, or even write positively about a product unless it was something that was both aligned with my brand and a product that I would give to my own family. I was thoroughly impressed with IBgard’s research and the research behind peppermint oil and it’s effect on IBS symptoms.