This post covers common questions and facts about IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). If you have further questions then please post in the comments below.
IBS Introduction Questions
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the gut-brain axis.
Symptoms of IBS vary from person to person but include loose stools, constipation, stomach pain, bloating and urgency or difficulty going to the bathroom.
You can find out more about IBS symptoms here.
We do not know the exact cause of IBS. However, the onset of IBS has been linked to mental health conditions, traumatic events, GI infections and antibiotic use.
Having IBS in your family or being female is also thought to have a role. You can find out more about IBS causes here.
There are 4 different types of IBS based on symptoms: IBS-mixed type, IBS- diarrhoea predominant, IBS- constipation dominant and IBS-U – unspecified.
You can find the official guidance from the ROME IV Foundation.
1 in 10 people have IBS.
There is no 1 test for IBS. Instead, IBS is a process of ruling out other possible conditions such as coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. If testing comes back negative, the person should also meet the ROME IV Foundation criteria to be diagnosed.
FAQ – IBS and Diet
There is no one diet for irritable bowel syndrome as every sufferer has different symptoms are triggers.
The low FODMAP diet is a diet which is low in fermentable carbohydrates. The diet is used as part of a process which identifies dietary IBS triggers by firstly removing them and then systematically reintroducing them.
You can read more about the low FODMAP diet here.
People with IBS should limit their intake of fermentable fibres. This means fruits, vegetables and grains which are low in FODMAPs. Tolerance of these varies.
Someone with IBS should eat at least 3 meals per day. Irregular eating has been shown to worsen symptoms.
Fasting may worsen IBS symptoms and should be avoided. Although someone may feel initially better, this is because their gut is not processing anything. But, long-term irregular eating has been linked to worse symptoms in IBS.
Solubility alone will not predict how a fibre reacts in your bowel so you should not consider this when looking at different fibre types.
Psyllium husk, ground flaxseed and partially hydrolysed guar gum are all useful in IBS-C.
Psyllium husk and partially hydrolysed guar gum are useful in IBS-D. These help to bulk up the stoolL
Lifestyle Recommendations in IBS
Mindfulness such as breathing exercises, meditation and journalling can all be useful. Regular (gentle) exercise has also been shown to help IBS.
You can read more about IBS and exercise here.
Yes yoga can help IBS symptoms via targeting the gut-brain axis.
There are no known specific yoga types or poses to help with gut-health. This is despite some claims online and from yoga instructors but this is based on theory rather than science.
IBS is common and complicated condition which is impacted by multiple areas.
If you have further questions which were not answered in this general FAQ on IBS, please do not hesitate to reach out below.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.