Skip to content

Managing IBS


Kathy, 40-year-old works at the bank and has an appointment with her client. Before her prospective appointment, she decided to have a quick bite of a sandwich for lunch, and now it seems she can’t help the pain and the urgency. She must reschedule her appointment. This is not the first time she is experiencing this. This is a common scenario for people experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

What is IBS?

It is a disorder of the intestine. It is a group of diseases associated with the gastrointestinal tract. Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world, estimated at 18 per cent vs 11 per cent globally. More women are especially affected by IBS than men. 

Symptoms can be mild to severe. They include bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, increased gas and flatulence, constipation or diarrhea.

Managing IBS


Diet plays a major role in managing IBS.  Some tips to manage IBS through diet are as follows

  • Identify and avoid trigger foods. Keep a food diary to identify foods that trigger IBS symptoms.
  • Consume fibre especially soluble fibre which can help to reduce IBS symptoms. 
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet as well and limit any caffeine intake.
  • Eating smaller more frequent meals can help prevent bloating, gas and discomfort.

Try the Low FODMAP diet- This involves removing all carbohydrates that are more difficult to digest or poorly absorbed in the small intestine of some people. FODMAP foods are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk products and sweetening agents. However please note that this is not a permanent diet plan! If changes are made, then you need to consider reintroducing some of these foods back.

Stress management

Our gut and brain are always communicating with each other, and therefore any mental stress or physical stress like digestive disorder can make things more complicated. Therefore, doing exercise will help. This includes regular exercise like walking, swimming, or yoga. Practice meditation including relaxation techniques like deep breathing or visualization. Get enough rest and sleep. Also, consider making time for yourself.

Over-the-counter remedies

Some over-the-counter (OTC) remedies are available to help with some of the symptoms. You can purchase peppermint oil and other products that reduce spasms, abdominal pain and relief. Talk to your pharmacist if you need any OTC remedies to treat your symptoms of diarrhea or constipation.

Trial of Probiotics

Probiotics help with the overall health of your digestive system. Probiotics are not medicine. They contain live beneficial bacteria that help to balance the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a community of microorganisms that live in the gut. Research has shown that people with IBS have an imbalance in their gut microbiome that consists of less beneficial bacteria , more harmful bacteria and less diversity .

Probiotics can help improve the level of good bacteria in the gut. They are available to purchase as capsules, tablets or powder and are also found in some fortified yogurts and fermented milk products. It is also pertinent to know that not all probiotics are the same. Talk with your pharmacist or physician about the right probiotics for you. Clinical Guide to probiotics Canada gives all the relevant scientific information and helps to choose the right probiotic for the appropriate indication.

IBS is not a life-threatening condition. However, if affects millions of people worldwide. While there is no cure for IBS there are various treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected. It is important to work with a healthcare professional like a physician, pharmacist or even a dietitian to develop an individual treatment plan to address the specific symptoms and needs of each person with IBS. With proper management and support individuals with IBS can lead fulfilling and productive lives.