Living with irritable bowel syndrome: Tips for managing symptoms and improving quality of life

IBS is characterized by the presence of abdominal pain associated with disturbed defecation. Living with
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can manage your
symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Understand your triggers: Keep a food and symptom diary to identify patterns and potential triggers.
    Certain foods like fatty or spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners can worsen symptoms. By
    identifying your triggers, you can make informed dietary choices.
  • Follow a balanced diet: Aim for a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of fiber-rich foods such as fruits,
    vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Gradually increase your fiber intake to avoid sudden changes that
    may aggravate symptoms. Drink enough water to help maintain regular bowel movements.
  • Manage stress: Stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms, so it’s important to find stress management
    techniques that work for you. This could include exercise, meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or
    engaging in hobbies that help you relax. Regular physical activity can also help alleviate symptoms.
  • Practice portion control: Overeating can lead to bloating and discomfort. Eat smaller, more frequent
    meals to prevent excessive strain on your digestive system. Chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly to aid
  • Identify and manage food intolerances: Some people with IBS may have specific food intolerances.
    Common culprits include milk (lactose) and gluten. If you suspect a food intolerance, consider eliminating
    the suspected food for a period of time and reintroduce it slowly to see if symptoms reappear.
  • Seek professional guidance: Consult a healthcare professional, such as a gastroenterologist or a registered
    dietitian, who specializes in IBS. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific symptoms and
    medical history. They may suggest additional treatments or medications that can help manage your
  • Consider probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help regulate gut health. Some strains may
    provide relief for individuals with IBS. Talk to your healthcare provider about incorporating probiotics into
    your routine.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water is essential for maintaining proper hydration and supporting
    regular bowel movements. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day, or more if you’re physically active
    or live in a hot climate.
  • Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for overall health, including digestive health. Establish a
    consistent sleep routine and create a sleep-friendly environment to improve the quality and duration of
    your sleep.

Remember, everyone’s experience with IBS is unique, so it may take time to find the strategies that work
best for you. Be patient and persistent in your efforts to manage symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Patients presenting with IBS-like symptoms who also report alarm features warrant prompt investigation.
Alarm features include any history of GI bleeding or unexplained weight loss, night time symptoms, fever,
unexplained vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, evidence of anemia, a family history of malignancy, and new-
onset symptoms in older age. With a comprehensive approach and support from healthcare professionals,
you can effectively navigate life with IBS.

Dr.  Amol Sathawane
MD (General Medicine), DrNB (Gastroenterology)
Consultant Gastroenterologist

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