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A diet for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation

Diet changes can help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation.

Although doctors will give some broad recommendations, no single IBS diet will suit everyone.

The right diet for a person will depend on their symptoms and how they react to each food.

It can help to keep a food diary to track the effect of different meals and foods.

Boost fibre for IBS

Fibre makes stools easier to pass for those with IBS. Too little of the roughage can make it hard to have a bowel movement. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises that fibre intake should be adjusted according to its effect and reduced if necessary. If you do increase your fibre intake, do so gradually, because any sudden increase may make symptoms worse.

Fibre is usually found in:

  • Wholemeal bread and cereals
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Beans

Try prunes and liquids for IBS

Some fruity foods that are higher in the sugar sorbitol, such as dried plums (prunes), and prune juice can also loosen bowels if you have IBS. But people with IBS should take care not to consume too much sorbitol. It can cause wind, bloating, cramping, and diarrhoea.

Also consider ground flaxseed to ease IBS constipation symptoms. It can be sprinkled on salads, cooked vegetables and cereals.

Another way to encourage bowel movements is to drink plenty of liquids like water and juice. Health experts recommend eight glasses daily for good hydration.

On the other hand, fluids such as coffee, fizzy drinks, and alcohol can have a dehydrating effect. Those drinks can actually make your IBS constipation worse so consider reducing consumption of these if other steps do not appear to be helping.

Limit highly refined foods if you have IBS

Highly refined foods fill you up without providing the fibre and nutrients you need. People with IBS should avoid eating too many refined foods such as:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Certain cereals without fibre
  • Crisps
  • Biscuits.

Also, a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet can worsen your constipation. You need protein, of course, but don't cut out carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables. Constipation is a common side effect of some popular low-carbohydrate diets.

Eat slowly if you have IBS

Whether you have IBS or not, too often we eat on the run or at our desks. Eating in such a rush reduces the pleasure you get from a meal, and can actually trigger IBS symptoms.

So while you're eating, try not to do other things, such as drive or sit in front of the computer. The stress from traffic or work may trigger symptoms. It may also make you eat more quickly and swallow more air, causing wind or bloating.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on April 26, 2016

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