For most people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), home treatment may be the best way to manage the symptoms. It is also helpful to learn all you can about IBS so you can better share your concerns and questions with your doctor.
Careful attention to diet, exercise, and stress management should help keep your symptoms under control. They may even prevent your symptoms from coming back.
In many people who have IBS, eating may trigger symptoms. But for most people, there is not a certain type of food that triggers symptoms.
Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can help control constipation. High-fiber foods include fresh fruits (raspberries, pears, apples), fresh vegetables (carrots, leafy greens), wheat bran, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Beans such as kidney, pinto, and garbanzo are also high-fiber foods. (So are vegetables such as peas, cabbage, and broccoli. But they should probably be avoided if gas is one of your symptoms.)
If you have trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, you can take a fiber supplement such as psyllium (for example, Metamucil) or wheat dextrin (for example, Benefiber). If you take a fiber supplement, read and follow all instructions on the label. Also, make sure to drink plenty of fluids.
You can take steps to make it less likely that certain foods will cause symptoms. For example, avoid or limit gas-producing foods (including beans and cabbage), sugarless chewing gum and candy, caffeine, and alcohol.
If you have diarrhea, try limiting the amount of high-fiber foods you eat. This includes vegetables, fruits, whole-grain breads and pasta, high-fiber cereal, and brown rice.
Getting more exercise can make your symptoms less severe. Exercise also can improve your quality of life (especially how well you sleep, your energy level, and your emotional and social life).
Getting more exercise doesn't have to be hard. In one study, people with IBS increased their activity level by adding 20 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, 3 to 5 days a week. They did activities such as swimming, jogging, cycling, and walking.
In the group that did not increase their activity level, more people had an increase in their IBS symptoms. These people weren't active, and their symptoms got worse.