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Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS Awareness Month

 Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gut disorder that affects as many as one in ten adults worldwide. The aim of IBS awareness month is to reduce the stigma associated with the condition and to encourage people with symptoms to come forward and get medical advice instead of ‘suffering in silence’.

IBS often manifests as a wide range of gut symptoms which makes it difficult to pinpoint a cause, therefore making it difficult to treat. Indeed, triggers can vary widely from person to person. The good news is that often once you understand your own triggers, you should be able to manage the condition yourself.

Symptoms of IBS can include tummy pain, constipation, bloating and diarrhoea and this may be disruptive to everyday life due to the discomfort and embarrassment the condition can cause. It can mean time off work and missing out on social events as well as a loss of self-confidence.

IBS is thought to be triggered initially by a gut infection such as a holiday bug, or by food poisoning, or even an excess of antibiotics. It tends to be more common in females and can be related to anxiety or depression. Although the exact cause is unknown it is thought that the symptoms are brought on by a disruption in communication between the brain and the gut – known as the brain-gut axis. In recent years, it has been discovered how important our gut health is for all aspects of physical and mental health.

UK Charity – Guts UK have a detailed fact sheet on what IBS is, possible causes and treatments: IBS – causes, symptoms and treatments.

Dr Megan Rossi, otherwise known as The Gut Health Doctor, advises keeping a ‘gut diary’ for one or two weeks to help determine which, if any, foods are triggers for your IBS. You can then look for patterns in food or drink which may be causing symptoms. If certain specific food types seem to cause problems, try limiting them as detailed below:

  1. Alcohol: Drink no more than one standard drink a day (equivalent of around 330ml low-strength beer, 100ml wine or 25ml spirit).
  2. Caffeine: Limit to one caffeine-containing drink/food a day, e.g., 1 single shot coffee, 1 tea.
  3. Spicy food: Limit chilli-containing meals.
  4. Fat: Limit large portions of high-fat foods, particularly those with limited nutritional value, i.e., high-fat fast food.
  5. Water: Drink 1.5–2 litres of fluid per day (aim for mostly water).
  6. Dietary fibre: Spread fibre intake evenly across the day. Aim for 2 pieces of fruit, 5 portions of vegetables, 3 portions of wholegrains and 1 or 2 portions of nuts/ seeds/ legumes each day.
  7. Fruit: No more than 1 piece of fruit per sitting.
  8. Sweeteners: Avoid all sweeteners ending in -ol

If limiting a specific food type makes no difference, try all the above restrictions. She also talks about the importance of sleep and relaxation practices including meditation and yoga. Hear more of her recommendations by listening to her on Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s Podcast – Happy Mind, Happy Life: IBS and gut health with Dr Megan Rossi and more about gut health in The Doctor’s Kitchen Podcast: #182 Heal Your Gut with Dr Will Bulsiewicz

As with any condition, if you are experiencing new or persistent symptoms you should always discuss them with your GP to rule out any other disease as there is no single test for IBS. Disclaimer: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis and treatment.



Reference Sources and Further Reading:

International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders

Irritable Bowel Syndrome | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Guts UK (

#182 Heal Your Gut with Dr Will Bulsiewicz — The Doctors Kitchen

Our evolving understanding of IBS | The Gut Health Doctor

Irritable Bowel Syndrome | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Guts UK (

Professor Tim Spector’s Top 5 Gut Health Tips to Improve Your Gut Health (

Blog written by Nicola Coughlin April 2023