Managing irritable bowel syndrome

Simple diet and lifestyle changes can often help. 

June 9, 2020


Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is uncomfortable to have and talk about. But it can be managed. IBS is an intestinal disorder. People with IBS may have stomach pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and gas or a bloated feeling.

While the condition may be embarrassing, it’s quite common. It’s estimated that IBS affects between 10 to 15% of Americans, most of whom are under age 50. Approximately 20 to 40% of visits to gastroenterologists (digestive specialists) are due to IBS symptoms.

Fortunately, only a small number of patients have severe symptoms. These include rectal bleeding, weight loss and worsening pain. If you have symptoms, talk to your doctor or a gastroenterologist about treatment options and to rule out other possible problems.

Most patients with IBS can take care of their condition by making lifestyle changes. If you have IBS or similar symptoms, consider these tips:

  • Analyze your diet. Identifying the foods that cause digestive issues is the first step to feeling better. Many patients with IBS have problems with foods like dairy, garlic and wheat.
  • Relax. While stress doesn’t cause IBS, it can make it worse. Managing stress with relaxation techniques like deep breathing, massage and yoga can help prevent serious symptoms.
  • Try mindful eating, the practice of being fully present to what, when, why and how you eat. This includes not eating in front of the TV or when using other electronic devices. This will help you focus, not overeat and identify foods that aren’t right for you.
  • Move. Many studies suggest that exercising can help with IBS symptoms. This is especially true if you're constipated.

If you think you have IBS or want to learn more about managing symptoms, we’re here to help. Contact your primary care doctor or The Polyclinic gastroenterology department at 1-206-860-4544.


By Justin Goodman, MD

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.