Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Diet Plan

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a diagnosis labelled to any disorder of the intestine, where there is no other apparent pathology. Unfortunately many other diseases often go undiagnosed due to mislabelling as IBS. That's not to say there isn't a genuine condition of IBS; there most definitely is, and it seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent in the West.

IBS symptoms vary from constipation to diarrhoea to intermitted constipation and diarrhoea, and other symptoms may or may not be present: stomach pain/discomfort, urgency, abdominal cramps, blood in stools, flatulence, excessively smelly stools, anaemia, bloating, excessive belching and more. Due to the different symptoms there can be a number of dietary and medical approaches to the treatment of IBS, with varied success. Some people may identify certain food intolerances and need to exclude the offending items from their diet, others may adopt a diet high in dietary fibre, for example see our Meal Plan for Diverticular Disease. Others may trial a low fibre or low residue diet (plan coming soon) to try to control symptoms. Some people however try a number of dietary regimens, with zero success, and so may need medical intervention and further exploration.

However, the first dietary manipulation suggested is the low irritant diet. The principles of this diet are to avoid irritant foods and also to reduce high intakes of fatty foods. Fibre needs to be included in your diet, but certain high fibre foods may irritate the bowel. This regimen encourages a good fibre intake, whilst avoiding certain irritant fibre foods. High fat foods may also exacerbate symptoms so should be limited. It is also important to drink well – 12 cups of fluid per day. Avoid strong tea and coffee, and limit fizzy drinks and alcohol. It is also important to eat a wide variety of foods and to eat regular meals, don't miss meals. Adapt the plan to suit your own needs and daily routine and vary portions and food choices from day to day.

Heed the following principles:

  • Starchy foods:
    Avoid – white bread, granary bread or any bread containing grains and seeds; cornflakes, Rice Krispies, cereals containing nuts and dried fruit, e.g. muesli; biscuits/cakes containing nuts, dried fruit; chips/French fries, crisps/potato chips, cold/reheated potatoes
    Include - wholemeal, brown or wheatmeal bread; high fibre breakfast cereals, e.g. branflakes, Weetabix, Shreddies, porridge; all plain biscuits, plain cakes and scones; pasta, rice – preferably wholewheat/brown varieties; potatoes - baked, mashed, boiled, etc
  • Dairy products
    Avoid – cream; full cream milk; yoghurt/fromage frais containing seeds or nuts
    Include - skimmed or semi skimmed milk; cheeses preferably low- fat or cottage cheese, quark; smooth yoghurts/fromage frais
  • Fruit
    Avoid - fruit containing pips or seeds, e.g. raspberries, blackcurrants, etc; tough fruit skins; nuts, seeds, dried fruit
    Include - fruit juice, peeled fresh fruit, tinned and stewed fruit
  • Vegetables
    Avoid - all veg containing pips or seeds, e.g. tomatoes; tough skins e.g. onion, sweetcorn, peas; or tough stalks, e.g. broccoli; pulses e.g. red kidney beans, baked beans, lentils
    Include - all other veg, though some salad and raw veg may upset some people
  • Meat, poultry, fish
    Avoid - tough and fatty meat, meat pies; fish where you consume bones, e.g. sardines; fried fish in batter or breadcrumbs
    Include - lean meat and poultry; all other fish
  • Miscellaneous
    Avoid - large amounts of butter/margarine; jam/marmalade containing seeds/shreds; crunchy peanut butter; pastry; soups containing pulses, onions, etc; hot spices, pickles, chutney; Chinese/Indian dishes
    Include - low fat spreads; jelly jam, shredless marmalade; smooth peanut butter; cream or clear soups; salt, pepper, ketchup, vinegar; eggs

The following meal plan is an example plan of a healthy low irritant diet which may help relieve symptoms of IBS. Use this to give you an idea of what are healthy nutritious foods to include, but don't forget to vary your food choices and to drink plenty of water through the day. Remember to check with your doctor before following this plan.

High fibre cereal (porridge, Shredded Wheat, Weetabix, etc) + skimmed milk
and 1-2 slices wholemeal bread with olive oil-based spread
200ml smooth fruit juice
Mug weak tea/coffee
2-3 digestive biscuits
Sandwich: Wholemeal bread + olive oil-based spread + cheese or slice deli chicken/ham or tuna in low fat natural yoghurt or smoked salmon
or cottage cheese / quark with 4-5 rye crispbread / oatcakes
Small portion of raw carrot / cucumber
Low fat yoghurt
Drink water
2-3 oatcakes
Peeled apple / pear
Mug weak tea/coffee
Evening Meal
Chicken breast or white fish or lean meat
and basmati rice or wholewheat pasta or jacket potato or sweet potato
and large serving of cooked veg
1-2 slices wholemeal bread, toasted with olive oil-based spread and smooth peanut butter
Drink water
Plans for people with illness or medical conditions in no way should override advice provided specifically for you by your doctor, clinical dietitian or other clinician. We advise that you seek the advice of a suitably qualified physician before commencing any exercise regime, following any dietary or nutritional regimen or beginning the use of any dietary supplements, legal or otherwise. The information provided on the Website is intended as information only and does not constitute advice. Therefore, it must not be relied on to assist in making or refraining from making a decision, or to assist in deciding on a course of action.