On this page

Irritable bowel syndrome

Man dishing up bowl of pasta
On this page

The best ways to control your symptoms

No one really know what causes IBS, but it may be triggered by stress, problems with your immune system, or a problem with how the muscles of your gut squeeze food through your bowel. The good news is that there’s a lot you can do, through diet and stress management, to control the condition and ease your symptoms.

The symptoms of IBS usually come on for the first time between the ages of 20 and 30. They tend to come and go in bouts, often during times of stress or after eating certain foods, and they can vary from person to person.

There are three main patterns of bowel symptoms in IBS:

  • IBS with diarrhoea- when you have repeated bouts of diarrhoea
  • IBS with constipation-when you have repeated bouts of constipation
  • IBS mixed-when you have repeated bouts of diarrhoea and constipation

The condition can also cause:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • A change in your bowel habits
  • Excessive wind
  • An urgent need to go to the toilet
  • A feeling that you need to open your bowels, even if you've just been to the toilet
  • A feeling that you’ve not fully emptied your bowels

Knowing your triggers can help manage the condition

Certain foods and drinks can trigger IBS symptoms. These vary from person to person so it’s a good idea to keep a diary of which foods and drinks make your symptoms worse, then you’ll be able to avoid them. Changing your diet is a key way to control the symptoms of IBS, but there’s no ‘one size fits all’ diet for people with IBS; it depends entirely on your symptoms and how you react to different foods.

The most common food and drink triggers include:

  • Alcohol
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea, coffee and coke
  • Processed snacks, such as crisps and biscuits
  • Fatty foods
  • Fried foods
  • Pastry
  • Certain meats, such as pork

Another common trigger of IBS symptoms is stress, so finding ways to cope better with stressful situations, such as breathing techniques or yoga, can be very helpful.

For more information about the best treatments for you just ask your pharmacy team at your Local LloydsPharmacy.