Avoiding Tummy Troubles

While there is no cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there are effective steps you can take to both treat and manage IBS. Small changes in your lifestyle and diet can reduce the severity and frequency of IBS attacks. When IBS symptoms such as abdominal cramps, spasms and bloating do strike there are effective IBS treatments available at your pharmacy. If your condition does not improve after two weeks of use then GP advice should be sought.

The Importance of Diet and Exercise

IBS can be a long-term, chronic condition, but with careful and thoughtful management of your diet and lifestyle you can reduce the frequency and severity of your attacks. IBS is also a very individualised condition – different things work for different people. You may need to try several of these tips before you discover what works best for you.

Food and drink

IBS can be triggered and exacerbated by the things we eat and drink, but everybody’s digestive system is different: a food that’s a problem for you may be fine for someone else. You can try keeping a food diary to see what specific foods and drinks you should avoid.

Here are some general guidelines that have worked for IBS sufferers when planning their diet:

  • Cut down on alcohol, which is a stomach irritant. Some people find beer worse than other drinks, so if you don’t want to stop altogether, try different kinds
  • Reduce your intake of starch, fatty foods and red meat – these can all be hard work for your digestive system
  • Aim to get your full five-a-day of fruit and vegetable servings
  • Cut down on sugar and salt
  • Drink plenty of water – aim for at least eight glasses a day – and avoid of tea, coffee and soft drinks
  • Large meals can exacerbate IBS, so have five small meals instead of three large ones
  • Eat plenty of fibre as part of your diet as this will help your digestion work more smoothly

Try probiotic foods. They contain live bacteria that can help the balance of microflora in your digestive system.


The better shape you’re in, the healthier your digestive system is likely to be, so be more active, even if it’s just walking instead of taking the bus (especially if you’re carrying a little too much weight). Each kilo lost means less of a burden on your digestive system.

Aim to incorporate enjoyable activity and exercise into your routine in a way that means you’re likely to stick to it. Try brisk walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, or taking exercise classes. If you can manage three 30-minute sessions a week, you’ll soon feel the effects – and so will your digestive system.

Exercise can also have an impact on stress levels, which are considered to be a cause of IBS in some people. Regular exercise is one of the most beneficial steps you can take to manage your IBS and improve your general health.


By now, you know the effect that stress and anxiety can have on your IBS, and the vicious circle you can end up in when the stress of worrying about your next IBS attack is just making things worse. So what can you do to feel less stressed? Relaxation courses and meditation can help, or you can try things like yoga, Pilates, or massage sessions.

Day-to-day, keep a note of the situations and encounters with people that may cause you stress and try to avoid them wherever practical (or at least be prepared for them). You should also cut down on the levels of unnecessary pressure by preparing in advance and leaving plenty of time to get to meetings or appointments. Take short breaks at work to relax when possible and give yourself some time to unwind at the end of the day.