by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Lifestyle habits can make symptoms worse. The changes that may need to be made are not the same for each person. It may take time for you and your care team to find the plan that is right for you.

The most common changes are:

Eating and Food Choices

Some foods can make you feel worse. Keep track of the problems you have and the foods that cause them.

Some people find eating smaller meals or eating at the same times helps ease symptoms. You may also want to limit:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Bubbly drinks
  • Fresh fruit
  • Processed and recooked foods

If a food you eat causes problems in the hours after you eat it, then you could try not eating that food for a few days to see if things get better. Then, try it again to test whether it causes symptoms again.


Fiber comes in two forms:

  • Soluble—Softens stool and makes it easier to pass. It can be found in foods like oats, fruits, beans, and avocados. This is helpful for IBS with constipation.
  • Insoluble—This type does not break down in the body. It can add bulk to the stool and make it easier to move out of the body. This fiber can be found in whole grains and vegetables. It can also be found in foods like bran, nuts, seeds, and barley.

Soluble fiber may ease symptoms better than insoluble fiber. Slowly add fiber to your diet. It may cause more bloating and gas at first. This will go away as you get used to it. You may need to make small changes until you find the right balance.


FODMAP carbs are harder to break down than others. These can make symptoms worse. FODMAP stands for:

  • Fermentable
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Disaccharides
  • Monosaccharides
  • Sugar Alcohols
  • Polyols

A FODMAP diet may be an option if other methods are not helping. A dietitian will help you choose foods and plan meals. Problem foods will be slowly removed from your diet over time to try to find what is causing problems.


Working out can help with digestion. It may help to ease symptoms. It can also lower stress and improve your overall mood.

Find something you like to do. Aim for 150 minutes of activity a week. A trainer can help you design a program.

Emotional Health

IBS can cause stress. Stress can worsen IBS. Find time to relax and ways to ease stress. Some people find these helpful:


Chronic health problems can be stressful. A support group can help. Others with IBS may be able to give you tips on how to manage symptoms. It may also be helpful just to share your concerns.

IBS can be frustrating. Therapy may help to improve your outlook and learn coping skills. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy. You can learn how to better manage problems. It may not affect IBS itself, but it can improve your quality of life.


Ford AC, Lacy BE, Talley NJ. Irritable bowel syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2017;376(26):2566-2578.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated September 10, 2018. Accessed August 26, 2019.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated April 2019. Accessed August 26, 2019.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 08/2019
  • Update Date: 08/27/2019