Avoiding Tummy Troubles

Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) will depend on the degree of your symptoms. The first step is to find out as much information as you can on the condition. This often helps people to feel more in control of their symptoms. Your pharmacist or GP can give you advice.

Dietary Changes

Some people may find particular foods trigger their IBS. Making changes to the diet can help to control symptoms for many people with IBS. This may include:

  • Implementing a high-fibre diet, including more fruit and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals – this helps by softening stools and relieving constipation
  • Avoiding tea and coffee and swapping for herbal teas such as peppermint and camomile
  • Drinking more water (6-8 glasses a day is recommended)
  • Avoiding vegetables that produce gas, such as beans
  • Cutting out spicy and fatty foods
  • Avoiding artificial sweeteners.

Stress management

As stress can often set off flare-ups of IBS, stress management can be a useful part of treatment. This can entail counselling and support, stress reduction and relaxation therapies, and ensuring you are getting enough exercise and adequate sleep.


Often lifestyle changes may not be enough to manage symptoms and medical treatment may also be necessary. Medications are available at your pharmacy and the pharmacist can advise you. Choice of treatment will depend on the nature of the severity of symptoms. Current research has shown that peppermint oil, certain types of fibre, and anti-spasmodic drugs are effective in treating IBS.*

Mild laxatives (particularly the bulking or stool softening types) may be useful if you are suffering from constipation. However, advice on dosages and type of laxative is important to avoid adverse effects.

For people with IBS who have diarrhoea, loperamide is recommended.

In more severe cases, antidepressants may also be prescribed – even if you are not depressed – as these drugs can block the brain’s perception of pain in the gut. Painkillers or sedative drugs may be prescribed if indicated.

*Effect of fibre, antispasmodics and peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2008;337:a2313