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How can fibre help people with IBS?

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a condition which affects approximately 10-20% of the UK population1. Symptoms vary from person to person and the severity can also vary, and may Include but aren’t limited to painful bloating, cramps, sudden diarrhoea or uncomfortable constipation, sometimes from just eating a small amount of one food. It’s a complex condition that is impacted by many factors including genetics, the gut microbiome, the immune system, gut-brain interaction and diet. While there isn’t a universal treatment for IBS, making changes to your dietary fibre intake can help soothe your symptoms.

It used to be that people suffering from IBS would be told by their doctors to follow a high fibre diet, usually containing coarse wheat bran. Although it helped with symptoms of constipation, many people found it made pain, bloating and diarrhoea much worse.

Now, the advice for people with IBS is to avoid insoluble fibre – that’s the bran, husks and skins of grains – and choose more gentle sources of soluble fibre, such as oats, peas, beans, apples and barley. However, it’s important to note that even these can be fermented in the colon and release gas, causing bloating and pain.

Following a low FODMAP diet can be beneficial for people suffering from IBS, but this should only be done under close supervision of a dietitian. FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate found In some common foods such as wheat, apples and onions. For many people with IBS FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in the bowel causing gas, bloating, or pain. Studies show that many people with IBS who follow the low FODMAP diet with help from a Registered Dietitian can get relief from their symptoms. A Registered Dietitian will also work with you to find a longterm healthy eating plan that will help to improve your IBS symptoms.

We hope this has been helpful! We’ve got plenty more information on everything from fibre to FODMAP on our blog.