9 Natural Ways to Manage IBS Symptoms

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a frequently misunderstood digestive disease. While the causes of IBS are not well understood, we do know that women are more likely to have it than men, and that psychological stress and certain foods play a role. While there are medications you can take to treat the symptoms of IBS, there are also certain lifestyle changes you can make to deal with symptoms. Read on to learn more about these drug-free options to help manage IBS.

Cooked salmon on a plate.

Try a low-FODMAP diet

One home remedy, while restrictive, is to try removing a type of carbohydrates called FODMAPs from your diet. Some people have difficulty digesting FODMAPs, and research shows that the low-FODMAP diet improves provides symptom relief in about 70 percent of people with IBS. FODMAP foods include wheat, milk, legumes, stone fruits, and numerous other fruits and vegetables. After a few weeks, you can try slowly adding the foods back into your diet to see which were actually bothering your IBS the most.

Man lying in the grass listening to music.

Manage your stress

Stress can be a trigger for IBS, so managing that stress can help reduce your symptoms. Relaxation, meditation, and prayer can all help relax the mind and body. Want to get your body moving to relieve stress? Try yoga!

Smiling young woman drinking a glass of water.

Limit coffee

Sorry, folks, but that cup of joe could be stimulating more than just your mind. Research has shown that coffee is a frequent trigger for IBS symptoms. If that’s the case for you, try something more soothing, like Chamomile tea, to see if that helps your pain.

Woman eating yogurt.

Reach for yogurt and probiotics

Both yogurt and probiotics can be helpful to gut health and overall pain. If you choose to get your probiotics from yogurt, be sure it says “live and active cultures” on the container.

Man sitting outside in the sun peeling a banana.

Try the BRAT diet

Made up of bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast, the “BRAT” diet has been used for a long time by dietitians to rid their patients of diarrhea. If you have loose stools and want to try this remedy, just make sure the bananas are ripe and the rice is cooked white rice.

Glass of water with ginger and lemon.

Consider ginger

Ginger has long been known to calm the gut and is even used in combination with anti-nausea medications in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Try your ginger fix in the form of tea, a capsule, or a lozenge.

Whole grain, high fiber foods.

Get more fiber

If you aren’t getting enough fiber, it could be exacerbating your symptoms — especially if you have constipation with your IBS. According to recommendations, everyone should try to get at least 25 grams of fiber per day from food. If you already have diarrhea, you may want to skip this tip until you can talk with your doctor.

Man handing woman a glass of water.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Not only does staying hydrated help your digestive tract move more smoothly, but it also can help keep you from getting dehydrated when your body does swing to the diarrhea side of IBS. Unless directed otherwise by your doctor, women should follow recommendations to get 2.7 liters of water (from food and drink) per day, and men should get about 3.7 liters, according to the National Academies of Sciences.

Mother and young daughter climbing steps outside.

Get moving with your favorite exercise

As noted earlier with yoga, exercise is a great way to help manage stress, a common trigger for IBS. But it doesn’t have to be yoga — a brisk 30-minute walk is all you need to reap the benefits of exercising. If you are a hardcore gym fanatic, that’s great too. Just get your body moving to help calm your bowels and aid in digestion.

Doctor and woman with stomach pain.

Next steps to consider

If you’ve tried what seems like a million things and are still having IBS symptoms, it’s time to talk to your doctor. You may need to try different medications, or you might be dealing with something other than IBS like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Your doctor can help guide you to find the right treatment for you.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.