Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a disruption of the intestinal tract. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and abnormal bowel movements. Diarrhea may often alternate with constipation, while pain and bloating may be relieved by a bowel movement. With IBS, nerve endings in the bowel are unusually sensitive, which means even normal bowel events such as passing fluid or gas cause abnormal muscle reactions.

IBS is known as a functional disorder as there is no direct cause of the syndrome. Symptoms appear to be caused by contraction of your bowel muscles. The contraction results from increased sensitivity within the bowel to almost anything: eating, stress, emotional arousal or gaseous distension.

Approximately 10-20% of adults experience the symptoms of IBS. Its symptoms are the second most common cause of workplace absenteeism, after the common cold. Its impact differs between people because of their alternating constipation and diarrhea. However, with some simple lifestyle changes, those same people say that their lives are back to normal.

People who have had IBS often say they felt like their life revolved around the bathroom because of their alternating constipation and diarrhea. However, as mentioned previously, with some simple lifestyle changes, those same people say that their lives are back to normal.


It has been established that 10% of people who suffer from IBS get better each year. Of course, this will be affected by your lifestyle and stress levels, but you have the ability to control the symptoms of IBS.

Changing diets will help many people with IBS, but it varies from person to person. Caffeine, nicotine and/or alcohol and foods such as dietary fats should be avoided as these are common triggers of your symptoms. However, any food can trigger your IBS symptoms. Learning what is right and wrong is the best way to minimize the effects of IBS and maximize the benefits of your diet. Generally, adding bran or another natural source fibre, like the psyllium in Metamucil, to your diet can help to relieve the constipation associated with IBS.

Here are a few tips to help treat IBS:

  • Take some time to evaluate your eating habits and levels of stress, as this is important in minimizing IBS symptoms.
  • Try to increase dietary fibre and avoid foods that trigger your symptoms. Also, remember to drink at least 8 glasses of fluid per day.
  • Avoid or develop coping mechanisms for stress. Stress may be triggered by overwork, poor sleep habits or personal difficulties.
  • Proper balance between rest and exercise can help reduce stress levels and help with IBS.


Constipation is a frequent complaint. This can be mild (small, hard stools) to severe (no bowel movements without a laxative).

Constipation is almost always due to insufficient fibre intake because our foods are so highly refined that there is little fibre left. Our forefathers ate about 60g of fibre per day; we eat only about 13g daily. Most of us need about 20-35g per day or more. One to three soft, formed stools a day is normal.

Canada’s dietary guidelines: Recommendation of fibre intake with different ages and sexes:

Men 19 to 50 38
Men 51 and older 30
Women 19 to 50 25
Women 51 and older 21
Pregnant Women 19 and older 28
Breastfeeding Women 19 and older 29

There are two types of fibre: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fibre is absorbed into the blood stream and is of no help to the bowel. The best source of insoluble fibre is cereal, but very few are truly high in fibre. In order to achieve better bowel habits, we suggest the following:

  • Fibre 1 or All-Bran Cereals
    Please check the label to be sure the fibre content is close to 15g per serving. Be sure to drink a glass of water while you are eating it and another one afterwards. If necessary, you can eat another bowl of cereal in the evening. That alone would give you 30g of fibre per day. Some bloating may occur, but this just means that the bowel is starting to work. It should subside in time.
  • High Fibre Bread(Prairie Bran has 6g per two slice servings)
  • Other foods high in insoluble fibrecontent include most beans, brussel sprouts, corn, peas, acorn squash, potatoes with the skin on, blackberries, and raspberries.


Always drink a glass of water whenever you have fibre. Fibre does not work without water. Coffee or juice does not help! If your bowel movements tend to become too frequent or loose, decrease the amount of fibre, as every individual’s needs are different.

Some additional points to note:

  • Wheat Bran 1-4 tbsp (green Quaker box) may be added to the above cereals or put in meatloaf etc. Remember to drink water with it!
  • If you wish to lose some weight, have cereal and water 30mins before your main meal
  • Avoid white bread and other cereals with low fibre content
  • Fibre is an invisible chemical, not a stringy material that you can see
  • There is no upper limitation for fiber consumption
  • Avoid supplements and laxatives with Cascara or Senna

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