Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a debilitating condition that affects around one in 20 Britons and affects all areas of a person’s life, from work to dating.
Unfortunately, when someone is diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, treatment isn’t as simple as medication.
It requires a lifetime commitment to routine habits, and they can take months or even years for the individual to learn.
What works varies from person to person, as do the foods to avoid.
However, all the experts polled by The Sun agreed that the following habits were an integral part of their lives:
- Drink at least two liters of water a day
- Stress management, a major trigger for irritable bowel syndrome. This can be through exercise, reading a book, or taking breaks from work throughout the day
- limit alcohol
- Eat regularly throughout the day and never skip meals or get too hungry
- Using probiotics and prebiotics (either as supplements or with the diet) to support gut health
Here doctors reveal what they have found for their individual symptoms …
1. dr Sunni Patel
Sunni Patela gut health doctor based in London, suffers from moderate to severe irritable bowel syndrome, which typically causes bloating that can make you “look pregnant,” painful abdominal cramps, and up to 15 trips to the toilet a day.
He said, “On the days when I have a flare-up, it affects my energy, focus, work, activities, and my ability to engage with other people.”
“There is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome, but there are ways to control it as much as possible. The approach is very different for everyone.”
Don’t just follow the tips listed above, Dr. Patel who created Dish Dash Deetshe said he focuses on:
- Get enough sleep (six to eight hours a night) and relax before bed
- Stay as active as possible (15-30 minutes a day)
- Regular hypnotherapy to support psychological well-being
- Avoid trigger foods, which for him are typically spicy, fried or processed foods, refined sugars, refined carbohydrates and too much alcohol
- Avoid tight clothing, which can be uncomfortable if there is a sudden flare-up
- Carry an emergency kit to relieve symptoms when they become too difficult to bear. These include a hot water bottle, cold water to relieve cramps, peppermint tea to relieve gas, and a hypnotherapy recording to relieve stress
dr Patel’s top tips for people with irritable bowel syndrome are to keep a food and symptom diary every day, eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables to ensure you don’t develop a deficiency, and add sources of probiotics and prebiotics to your diet to support gut health .
He said, “Foods like oats, bananas and artichokes are high in prebiotics and resistant starches.”
Advice to avoid
dr Patel cautioned against treatments that are extreme or not scientifically proven, including colon treatments that do more harm than good, diets, and detox or “cure” plans that “have a placebo/psychosomatic effect rather than a real clinical effect.” .
He said that skipping foods like fiber “for fear they might trigger bloating can ultimately lead to nutritional deficiencies and poor gut health, leading to a vicious cycle of worsening irritable bowel syndrome.”
2. dr Rhona Eskander
rhonaa renowned dentist, said some days her IBS symptoms were so severe that she couldn’t get out of bed due to lack of energy and low mood.
She said: “I have symptoms every day. On mild days I get bloated and on heavy days I have acid reflux and my stomach doubles in size.
“I’ve been quietly suffering from irritable bowel syndrome since I was about ten years old.”
dr Rhona, who from Dr. Patel, who received tailored advice, said her regular habits include:
- Glutamine (amino acid found in supplement or sachet form) in water to support gut lining
- Eat a low-FODMAP diet while exploring trigger foods
- Avoid carbonated drinks and chewing gum to prevent bloating
- No food after 9pm
- She establishes a routine around her menstrual cycle as her irritable bowel syndrome worsens at certain times of the month
Advice to avoid
dr Rhona said it’s not worth giving up on healthy fruit.
She said, “Initially I had to give up processed sugar, but have gradually reintroduced natural alternatives.”
3. Sandra Mikhail
Sanda Mikhaila nutritionist and author of The Gut Chronicles says that when her irritable bowel syndrome peaked in 2010, “it took over every aspect of my life.”
She said: “My symptoms can only be described as an abdominal roller coaster ride: stomach pain, then diarrhea for a few days, followed by no bowel movements.”
“Everything I ate seemed to go straight through me or create the perfect illusion of pregnancy.
“I’ve even developed a fear of pain, a topic not many sufferers talk about openly, and I’ve experienced panic attacks.”
Sandra, whose flares now last “just a few more hours,” said:
- Eat dinner three to four hours before bedtime
- Has an hour of tech-free time before bed and sleeps at the same time each night
- Performs diaphragmatic breathing and meditation that help treat abdominal cramps or pain
- Do 15 minutes of exercise daily
- Takes one day off every week
- Make sure she eats 30 plant-based foods a week
- See a therapist once a month
- Avoid coffee, which triggers diarrhea. However, it tolerates weak black tea.
- Avoid sugar alcohols (ie sweeteners ending in -ol) as they make gas and diarrhea worse
Advice to avoid
Sandra said that when a person stays on an elimination diet like FODMAP for too long, a fear of food can arise.
She also advised against avoiding high-fiber foods and using the wrong probiotics, adding, “Clinical research studies show the benefit of using specific probiotic strains to treat the most common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.”
“For example, Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12, which improves bowel regularity, stool consistency, and overall IBS symptoms.”
4. Lisa Fearon
Lisa Fearona London-based health and wellbeing coach, discovered her irritable bowel syndrome was triggered when she returned to the NHS during the Covid pandemic.
The anesthesia and surgery specialist said: “It has been intense and very stressful at times.
“Working through breaks, rushing meals, and enduring long shifts that depended on coffee all contributed to my developing IBS.
“In addition to the constant bloating, I was bouncing between constipation and diarrhea and bouts of extreme cramps.
“I used to have trouble concentrating on a daily basis with a ‘foggy head’.”
Lisa said hers include:
- She stopped eating wheat, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar after realizing they contribute to bloating
- When she wakes up, she drinks half a liter of water.
- She did Tibetan yoga/stretching for 10 minutes to wake up her body and stimulate circulation, followed by meditation for up to 20 minutes, which she repeated in the afternoon.
- Practice gratitude (Hal Erod’s Miracle Morning routine) and visualize how her day is going and what goals she wants to achieve. Starting the day this way had a tremendous positive impact on her life
- Throughout the day, she regularly takes breaks, provides fresh air and, if possible, takes a walk in nature.
Lisa said, “It took me quite a while to realize that overcoming IBS symptoms doesn’t just take a diet change alone — it takes such a multi-pronged approach.”
“There is evidence of that now Hypnotherapy also relieves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
“I would strongly recommend anyone struggling with symptoms to try it. But meditation also has amazing results.”
Lisa also suffers from fibromyalgia and endometriosis and said, “Both of these conditions are closely related to irritable bowel syndrome and all three share a common inflammation.”
“I take natural anti-inflammatory supplements daily — like curcumin, ginger, omega-3s, and green tea — and eat an anti-inflammatory diet.”
Lisa emphasized the importance of figuring out the trigger foods.
She said: “Raw beetroot and spinach (in a juice) immediately set my fibromyalgia pain on fire.
“So that’s the thing, you could eat really healthy like me, and that might be the real problem!”
Advice to avoid
Lisa said: “At one point I had stomach pains so bad that I was prescribed omeprazole – which treats indigestion and heartburn.
“Unfortunately, I’m hearing from a lot of people who are sticking with this drug and it’s really not safe to take it for long periods of time.
“If you are taking this medication for more than a month, you should definitely seek further advice.”