Do you have IBS symptoms? Answers to common FAQs

If you have IBS symptoms, then answers to some common FAQs about IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may help. Read on for answers to help your IBS symptoms.


6 common IBS questions

  • When do I need to see my doctor?
  • How can I improve my IBS symptoms?
  • Is the low FODMAP diet for me?
  • Can I begin the low FODMAP diet if I'm vegan/vegetarian?
  • Is low FODMAP a weight loss diet?
  • Should I wait until after my holiday? 

When do I need to see my doctor?

This is a question I'm often asked. The simple answer is, if your bowel habits change suddenly, you have blood in your stools or you have sudden weight loss, it would be sensible to see your doctor as soon as possible.

If you've had IBS symptoms for some time, then your doctor may suggest some investigations to rule out other causes for your symptoms. These may be blood tests to detect deficiencies or gluten sensitivity (coeliac disease, for example). If these are inconclusive or you have other risk factors, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy or endoscopy. Try not to worry though, as a diagnosis of IBS is usually made by ruling out other conditions.

How can I improve my IBS symptoms?

IBS sufferers usually want a quick fix. Making changes to your lifestyle and diet can help ease IBS symptoms. So, a few things to think about to help improve your IBS symptoms are relaxation, exercise, and dietary changes.

Finding the right relaxation technique for you is really important. The Headspace app is a good starting point and offers a free trial period.

You don't need to join a gym or enrol on a boot camp to get exercise. Find something that you enjoy and you can easily fit into your life. If you don’t enjoy it, then you’re not going to build it into your daily routine. This could be swimming, jogging or even a lunchtime walk. Regular exercise in the fresh air is great for physical and mental health.

Simple dietary changes can help your IBS symptoms, whether you have IBS-D (loose stool type) or IBS-C (constipation type) or even a mixture of both. See my previous blogs for more information on simple dietary changes.

Is the low FODMAP diet for me?

If you've already made some changes to your diet and lifestyle, then the low FODMAP diet could be the next step. The low FODMAP diet is a temporary diet and involves some restrictions to the foods you would normally eat in the short term. Once your symptoms have improved, a period of reintroduction of foods will enable you to identify your triggers.

It's tricky to tackle alone, which is why the best results are seen when an IBS sufferer has expert help from an IBS dietitian. So, if your symptoms haven't improved sufficiently with the simple dietary changes, then get in touch. I offer a free initial telephone consultation to ensure that embarking on a low FODMAP diet is right for you. If we decide it's an effective IBS treatment for you, we can arrange a virtual consultation (usually only two sessions are needed). I'll help throughout the process making things easier for you by sharing my experience and practical tips.

Can I begin the low FODMAP diet if I’m vegan/vegetarian? 

People are always a little anxious about considering the low FODMAP diet if they’re following a plant-based diet. However, if you’re vegan or vegetarian you’ll be used to thinking about your diet more than most, so in some ways, it can be a little easier.

But, obviously, there will be another level of complexity to weave into your daily diet and that's where my experience and skills can help. Many of my patients have gone on to have great improvement in their IBS symptoms, whilst also following a plant-based diet. See some delicious low FODMAP recipes on my website.

Is low FODMAP a weight loss diet?

No, is the simple answer. The low FODMAP diet has been specifically formulated for those with IBS symptoms. There are plenty of weight loss diets available, so try these instead if you just want to lose weight.

But, yes, it is true that some people do find they lose weight on this diet and it can help to kick-start further weight loss, but it shouldn’t be relied upon for weight loss per se. However, for those who are underweight, this can be an important factor, too.

To avoid unwanted weight loss, I offer advice to have extra low FODMAP snacks and nutritious drinks, which can even promote some weight gain. It’s, therefore, important to ensure that the diet is undertaken with the guidance of an expert IBS dietitian trained in FODMAPs.

Should I wait until after my holiday?

There is always something on the horizon... a holiday, a wedding or a birthday celebration. These can still be enjoyed on the low FODMAP diet, especially with some additional advice from me. I provide specialist advice for managing your diet for these special events such as meals out, weddings and holidays. So, don’t delay – there’s no time like the present to get your IBS symptoms under control.

If you start your low FODMAP journey today, by the time the special event comes around you could be feeling so much better. So, what are you waiting for? Arrange a call to discuss whether the low FODMAP diet is right for you and look forward to a brighter future.

For more information, low FODMAP recipes and testimonials, see my website.

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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Written by Debra Thomas, BSc Registered Dietitian Specialist IBS Dietitian
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I'm a multi-award winning IBS Dietitian. I'm registered with the Health Care Professions Council and the British Dietetic Association. I have over 20 years' experience of advising on a range of therapeutic diets, but my area of expertise is in IBS treatment using the low FODMAP diet. My private practice is online, so I can advise across the UK.

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