Can diet and supplements help with IBS symptoms?

As an experienced Nutritional Therapist working with people with IBS and other digestive symptoms, I frequently see clients with dozens of supplements who are not getting results.

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I would start differently by looking at the underlying cause of your symptoms before spending lots of money on supplements that haven’t really helped. The biggest difference I often see is by first working on your diet and considering undertaking some digestive and microbiome function tests followed by targeted supplementation. 

What is IBS?

As you know, living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is challenging and is often a diagnosis of exclusion when other tests have been carried out, and no disease process can be identified. However, IBS can often be a result of a gut microbiome imbalance, constipation or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. I often work with clients and recommend straightforward testing to see if they have SIBO or are constipated and work out effective solutions with them to fix their gut issues.

However, with the right approach, you can manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. In this article, you will learn about the powerful role of diet, testing, supplements, and lifestyle factors in supporting your digestive function and IBS symptoms. 


Understanding the IBS diet

Adopting a suitable diet is key for managing IBS symptoms. Triggers can vary from person to person and keeping a food diary that you can bring to a Nutritional Therapist like me can help you to pinpoint problem foods. 

Does a low-FODMAP diet improve IBS?

You may already have heard of the low-FODMAP diet – a diet often recommended if you have IBS. This approach involves limiting foods that are high in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) such as certain fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. However, this diet can be very restrictive and cuts out lots of beneficial and healthy foods and isn’t designed for long-term use, which is what many people do, as they do not receive the necessary support to work out if there are any other underlying causes, nor given the right support to work out how to re-introduce foods.

Can fibre intake improve IBS?

Some specific fibre supplements can help regulate bowel movements. Soluble fibre sources like oats, flaxseeds, and chia seeds may be better tolerated for individuals with IBS, while insoluble fibre sources can potentially exacerbate symptoms.

What about food triggers - can they reduce IBS symptoms?

Identifying and avoiding specific trigger foods is also crucial and I work with my clients to help them work out what might be contributing to their IBS diagnosis and symptoms. 


Targeted supplements for IBS

When I’m working with my clients, they do have their place – improve digestion, reduce bloating and abdominal pain. Supplements can complement dietary changes in managing IBS symptoms. The following supplements may be beneficial:

  • Probiotics: Probiotics, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains, can support a healthy gut microbiome and help alleviate IBS symptoms. 
  • Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil capsules may help reduce symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, bloating, gas and work by relaxing the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Digestive enzymes: Certain digestive enzymes can aid in the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, potentially reducing digestive symptoms associated with IBS. 

Lifestyle factors for IBS management

In addition to dietary changes and supplements, certain lifestyle factors can contribute to managing IBS symptoms effectively. Consider the following:

  • Stress reduction: Stress can worsen IBS symptoms. Engaging in stress reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can help promote relaxation and improve symptom control.
  • Regular exercise: Regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can enhance digestion, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. 
  • Adequate sleep: Establishing good sleep habits is also important for managing IBS symptoms. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night and create a relaxing bedtime routine. If sleep is an issue for you and you have already tried a bedtime routine which hasn’t worked, then I can recommend a specific sleep programme that has helped many people, just like you.

By adopting a suitable diet, incorporating targeted supplements, and implementing lifestyle modifications, you can actively manage your condition, possibly resolve it and improve your quality of life. It is important to remember that individual responses to dietary changes and supplements may vary.

If you would like a more personalised approach to help with your IBS symptoms, book your complimentary discovery call via my profile to see how we can work together.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW15 & W1H
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Written by Melody Mackeown, mBANT, CNHC, BSEM | Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach
London SW15 & W1H

Melody Mackeown is a Nutritional Therapist who specialises in gut disorders.

If you are looking to work with an expert who can help you figure out the best foods for you without the guesswork or faddy diets you are in the right place. Together, we can help figure out the root cause of your digestive problems and find effective solutions.

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