How diet and supplements can improve IBS symptoms

As an experienced nutritional therapist working with people with IBS and other digestive symptoms, I frequently see clients trying dozens of supplements but not seeing results. To reduce spending money on something that may not work for you, I would start differently, and focus on looking at the underlying cause of your symptoms.


By first working on your diet, and considering undertaking some digestive and microbiome function tests followed by targeted supplementation, you're likely to see much more of a difference.

What is IBS?

Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be 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 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.

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. By making targeted changes as well as undertaking certain testing that may not have been carried out, you can often alleviate or significantly improve your symptoms, promote your gut health, and enhance your overall well-being.

The starting point if you think you have, or have been told that you have IBS, shouldn’t be purchasing supplements, but should always start with your diet.

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 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 for those with 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 end up doing, as they aren't receiving the necessary support to work out if there is any other underlying causes, nor given the right support to work out how to re-introduce foods.

Can fibre intake improve your IBS symptoms?

Some specific fibre supplements can help regulate bowel movements. Soluble fibre sources like oats, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, may be better tolerated in 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 crucial and much of my work includes helping clients understand and identify what might be contributing to their IBS diagnosis and symptoms. However, common triggers include spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and fatty or fried foods. 

Targeted supplements to improve your IBS symptoms

Don't get me wrong, supplements do have their place, and with the right ingredients and dose, can improve digestion, and reduce bloating and abdominal pain. In fact, supplements can complement the dietary changes made to help manage IBS symptoms. The following supplements may be beneficial, but always consult your nutrition professional or GP before making drastic changes in your diet:

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

A nutritional therapist can advise you on the supplements specifically formulated for your IBS symptoms to determine if they are appropriate for you (for example, some medications are contraindicated with certain supplements).

Lifestyle factors for IBS management

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

Stress reduction

Stress can worsen your 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 your digestion, reduce your stress, and improve your overall well-being. 

Adequate sleep

Establishing good sleep habits is also important for managing your IBS symptoms. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night and create a relaxing bedtime routine.

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.

Working with a nutritional therapist like myself will help you understand what might be the possible causes of your symptoms. As part of this, I will discuss with you functional laboratory testing, which tests for associated conditions that might be making your IBS symptoms worse (such as a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO). I can also help you make the appropriate diet and lifestyle changes to effectively manage your condition.

If you would like a more personalised approach to help with your IBS symptoms, book your complimentary discovery call 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
Written by Melody Mackeown, mBANT, CNHC, BSEM | Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach
London SW15 & W1H

Melody Mackeown, is a Nutritional Therapist who works in Putney and Earlsfield, London.

Whether you want to start a family, improve your mood, struggle with low energy, poor sleep or digestion or find it difficult reaching and maintaining your ideal weight, shouldn't you do something about it now?

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