How can I gain control over irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Nearly all people with IBS can be helped, but no one treatment works for everyone. Usually, with a few basic changes in diet and activities, IBS will improve over time. Here are some steps you can take to help you reduce symptoms of IBS:

  • Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, teas, and sodas).
  • Minimize lactose-containing foods. Lactose is the sugar found in milk products.
  • Increase fiber in your diet (found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts).
  • Drink three to four glasses of water per day.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Learn to relax, either by getting more exercise or by reducing stress in your life.

Try limiting how much milk you consume. (Women should get 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day. If you have IBS and are concerned about your calcium intake, you can try other sources of calcium. These sources include broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, tofu, yogurt, sardines and salmon with bones, calcium-fortified breads, calcium supplements, and some calcium carbonate antacid tablets).

Keep a record of foods you eat so you can figure out which foods bring on bouts of IBS. Common food "triggers" of IBS are red peppers, green onions, red wine, wheat, and milk.

You can also ask a nutritionist for samples of healthy diets to follow.

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