Eating for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common digestive complaint. Nutritional therapist Kerry offers up a breakfast which may help sufferers and explains how a few key ingredients can help...

Eating for IBS

It is unclear why IBS affects some people and not others. While symptoms vary, they usually include diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. Common triggers include stress or disruption to the good bacteria in your gut.

Some sufferers can manage their symptoms with diet and lifestyle changes, which include eating at regular times and cutting back on coffee, tea and alcohol. It's also a good idea to replace roughage like bran with gentler, soluble forms of fibre found in bananas, apples, pears, oats, rye and barley. This may help to alleviate bloating and regulate bowel movements.

Apple & linseed porridge An example of a beneficial breakfast for IBS sufferers is our Apple & linseed porridge, which thanks to some key ingredients may help ease symptoms.

As well as oats and apples, this porridge uses linseeds (also known as flaxseeds) - another good source of soluble fibre. It's worth grinding linseeds before using (or buy the ready-ground variety) as this helps your body to absorb all their great properties, including omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to soothe irritation. Linseed also supplies the types of fibre that your good gut bacteria thrive on; other foods with these prebiotic properties include ground almonds and chia seeds.

This porridge is finished with a generous dollop of probiotic yogurt, also useful for keeping our guts healthy. Eating naturally fermented foods like yogurt, which contain 'live' cultures, may help restore healthy levels of gut bacteria.

Remember, you should make dietary changes gradually so you don't aggravate an already sensitive system, and it's important to visit your GP to rule out any other health issues as soon as you experience a change to your bowel habits.

AppleBefore you try this recipe...

Our Cookery Team, supported by our Nutritional Therapist, devised this recipe after discussing this issue with a GP. Sadly IBS is a condition where one dietary approach does not suit all sufferers. That's because symptoms vary so much and because there is no definitive cause. Our aim was to devise a single recipe that would meet the most common needs as highlighted by our discussions with the GP. With this in mind some IBS sufferers certainly achieve relief from the inclusion of the gentler soluble fibre like the pectin found in some fruit like apples, the fibre in oats and ground seeds - these sufferers find that including soluble fibre helps regulate their system. Other sufferers are advised to follow a low fibre diet for a period of time because this can calm an overactive digestive system and alleviate some of their symptoms.

The low FODMAP approach is an interesting development and appears to be proving successful but it can be confusing and the dietary changes really require personalised professional advice. Many IBS sufferers find that including probiotic or live yogurt can help relieve symptoms potentially by improving the health of the gut environment - more studies are needed to identify the specific species and strains of bacteria which may lead to these benefits. If in doubt, always talk to your GP.

Discover more about the low FODMAP diet.

This article was reviewed on 27th September 2017 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.

A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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Ruth Bulman's picture
Ruth Bulman
3rd Sep, 2018
I am surprised you advise eating apples and pears as it is well known these fruits are bad for IBS sufferers as they are on the high FODMAP diet.
Peter John's picture
Peter John
1st Jul, 2018
Hi new to this site, I would like to mention that I have suffered for many years with IBS and about 4 months ago I decided to give up Alcohol and have been eating healthier and stopped a lot of bad foods I used to eat. And the problem has stopped, no IBS so it can be controlled, if I can then anyone can. I am not a veg eater and hate greens also did suffer with hi blood pressure (now also normal) so as I have a very weird diet but at the age of 69 not to bad. and I have now started cycling, and walking. Pete.
8th Jan, 2016
metabolic adaptation is a huge problem and is difficult to overcome. I have tried so many different dieting programs and have only found one so far that addresses this huge problem. The four cycle solution combats this problem though a process known as macro-patterning. Its possible to lose 15 pounds within the first week! I have a review on my blog be sure to take a look
25th Aug, 2015
Hi everyone, I've just started a forum for discussing tips, recipes, and sharing experiences for people who suffer from IBS, leaky gut, diverticulitis and other irritating intestinal problems. Help each other by sharing what has worked for you. It's totally free... just looking for a sense of community and answers. Please join, read what other people are saying and let us know what has worked for you! Did I mention there are no ads!
15th May, 2014
Dear Kerry, I really liked this article and would say it is 100% correct. I am diabetic type2 and suffer from IBS. The porridge and linseed works really well, even better than my prescribed medicines. Thank you bob aged 59.
4th Mar, 2014
As someone who was diagnosed with IBS nearly 30 years ago I've tried everything to try and alleviate my symptoms. Recently though I began the low FODMAP diet and have never felt better. I certainly notice when I have something that causes problems for me and have a long way to go in identifying these foods. It would be really useful if recipe sites could begin to include low FODMAP recipes!
25th Jan, 2014
I was suprised that although Kerry mentions the FODMAP diet, her recipies and advice seem to be in direct contrast to it. Apples, wheat (gluten) and dairy are in the advised "DON'T eat" list for IBS sufferers and although oats do not contain gluten, they do contain a similar substance which some gluten intollerant people cannot tollerat either. My GP suggested the FODMAP diet and said it helps about 60% of IBS sufferers. After trying it for a few months, it was definately much easier to tell which foods were causing problems when they were tried again. NHS direct has some advice about it. The dietician at my GP practice didn't seem to be able to help much unfortunately.
4th Jul, 2013
I have IBS, but unfortunately find that cows milk and yoghurt make it worse especially in the morning. I also find bananas make it worse too! I have just been also diagnosed with osteoporosis at the age of 43! I eat cheese and almond milk in small amounts and soya desserts when I have to, but do not enjoy the latter! I take a calcium/Vit D supplement as prescribed by my GP, but I am finding it difficult to consume more calcium naturally though I do eat white bread which has it listed in the ingredients. Any helpful recipes I could use every week would be useful as a IBS/Osteoporosis suffer.
30th Jul, 2013
Hello saraleetes.....As we know that apple keeps away doctor, above mentioned apple recipe can helpful for not only IBS but also many health problems. You need to increase fiber intake and water consumption. Drink daily 8 - 10 glasses of water and take proper diet.
24th Apr, 2014
Can u pls put me some helpful recipes up for people that suffer from ibs Many thanks X
24th Apr, 2014
I have IBS and a few other health issues and wondered if drinking decaf coffee is known to help? Thanks Nicola
Kerry Torrens's picture
Kerry Torrens
4th Jun, 2014
Hi there, thanks for your question. Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee may irritate a sensitive system. So it is a good idea to cut back on these. When shopping for a decaf alternative, choose a brand that uses the swiss water method of decaffeination.
23rd Apr, 2014
Will this approach also help with diverticulitis please?
Kerry Torrens's picture
Kerry Torrens
4th Jun, 2014
Hi there, thanks for your question. If you have diverticulitis you should aim to make dietary changes slowly - one step at a time. Including fibre in the form of soluble fibre from fruit and vegetables is gentler on the system. Some people with diverticulitis avoid nuts, seeds, corn, popcorn and tomatoes but there is no evidence that this is needed or helpful. If you do include nuts and seeds (like the linseed in the porridge recipe above) opt for them in their ground form so your system can handle them more easily.
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