Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms. Home remedies like diet and reducing stress might help.

The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing. Abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea are never fun. Yet there are several lifestyle changes and home remedies that you can try that may provide some relief.

Everyone’s body is different, but once you find remedies, you can try using them to prevent discomfort.

Exercise may improve IBS symptoms. A small 2019 study found that 6 weeks of treadmill exercise reduced symptoms and improved quality of life in women with mild and moderate IBS.

A 2018 research review also indicated that exercise likely benefited people with IBS but noted that more studies are needed.

If you’re not used to exercising, try starting slowly and working your way up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends exercising for at least 150 minutes a week, which could be 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Research from 2019 has linked stressful life events to an increased risk of IBS and worsened symptoms.

Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine can benefit everyone, especially if you’re living with IBS. A study from 2020 found that participating in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction class was associated with improved gastrointestinal symptoms in people with IBS.

You can try practicing mindfulness by:

  • meditating
  • using a mindfulness app
  • going for a walk and paying attention to your surroundings
  • taking a moment to reflect on your current physical state, thoughts, and emotions
  • imagining being somewhere you enjoy and creating a mental image of what you’re seeing, hearing, and smelling

Fiber is a bit of a mixed bag for people with IBS. It can help ease some symptoms, including constipation, but may worsen other symptoms like gas and bloating.

Still, it’s important to eat high fiber foods. Try increasing your fiber intake by 2 to 3 grams daily to help prevent symptoms. Focus primarily on soluble fiber, which may be better for people with IBS. Soluble fiber is found in foods like beans, oats, and fruits. The other type, insoluble fiber, is present in whole grains and vegetables.

In some cases, your doctor may also recommend that you take a fiber supplement like Metamucil.

Dairy products tend to be high in FODMAPs, which are carbohydrates that are difficult to digest. The low-FODMAP diet, often recommended for people with IBS, involves avoiding foods high in these carbohydrates at least until you’ve figured out your triggers.

If your doctor recommends avoiding dairy products, it’s essential to ensure that you consume enough protein and calcium from other sources. Talk with a dietitian if you have questions on how to do this.

Some foods may worsen gastrointestinal (GI) pain. Watch for foods that exacerbate your symptoms, and do your best to avoid them. Some common symptom-inducing foods and drinks include:

  • beans
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • garlic
  • alcohol
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • dairy products

On the other hand, some foods may help IBS. Foods that are low in FODMAPs may be less likely to cause symptoms, including:

  • vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and spinach
  • fruits like bananas, grapefruit, and blueberries
  • maple syrup
  • artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame

Consuming probiotics, the types of “good” bacteria and other beneficial microorganisms found in your gut, may help with IBS.

A research review from 2019 suggested that taking probiotics, especially ones containing multiple strains of microorganisms, may improve IBS symptoms. Still, more long-term studies are needed.

You can get probiotics in supplements or through foods like:

  • yogurt
  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • miso

As with any supplement, it’s essential to talk with your doctor before trying a probiotic.

Managing IBS symptoms can be a challenge, so it’s important to take care of yourself.

Several of the strategies above, like exercising and reducing your stress, may help reduce IBS symptoms with the added benefit of boosting your well-being. Talking with someone who understands what you’re going through can also help. Consider talking with a therapist or joining an IBS support group to meet others on a similar journey.

Can irritable bowel syndrome be cured?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition that may require life-long management. There’s currently no cure, however, some medications and dietary and lifestyle changes may help you manage your symptoms.

How is IBS usually treated?

An IBS treatment plan may include a combination of treatment options, such as taking medications and making dietary and lifestyle changes. Some of these changes may include exercising, eliminating foods that trigger symptoms, reducing stress, keeping an IBS food journal, and taking probiotic supplements.

What foods trigger IBS?

Food triggers differ for every individual. However, some common IBS food triggers include fiber, gluten, ultra-processed and fried foods, dairy, beans and legumes, alcohol, and caffeine.

What is the main cause of irritable bowel syndrome?

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. That said, researchers believe that it may have to do with the relationship between your brain and gut. Some flare-up triggers may include stress, eating certain foods, and bacterial infections, among others.

IBS can be a pain in the stomach, but you can take steps to prevent or reduce symptoms. Managing your stress and watching your diet are good ways to relieve IBS symptoms at home.

Talk with your doctor if you’re uncertain about which lifestyle techniques to try or the best way to start them.