Diet and the irritable bowel syndrome

Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 1991 Jun;20(2):313-24.


Food intake plays a key role in triggering or perpetuating symptoms in patients with IBS. Evaluation of the impact of diet in the individual patient requires a precise dietary history and a 7-day prospective dietary analysis, which should include the quality and quantity of food consumed, chronologic sequence and nature of symptoms, and the frequency and consistency of bowel movements. The caloric density of the meal, total fat intake, the quantity and quality of lactose-containing foods, sorbitol, fructose, and the nature and quantity of soluble and insoluble fiber intake must be noted. Patients with reflux esophageal symptoms should eliminate foods that decrease LES pressure, such as chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, and coffee. Direct esophageal mucosal irritants such as tomatoes, citrus juices, sharp condiments, and alcohol should be limited. Gastric emptying is slowed with the ingestion of fats and soluble fiber. Small bowel motility is slowed by soluble fiber and fatty foods. Gaseous syndromes may be reduced by avoidance of smoking, chewing gum, excessive liquid intake, and carbonated drinks. The reduced intake of large amounts of lactose-containing foods, sorbitol, and fructose may limit postprandial bloating. Flatus production can be lowered by reducing fermentable carbohydrates such as beans, cabbage, lentils, brussel sprouts, and legumes. Soluble and insoluble fiber ingestion will reduce sigmoidal intraluminal pressures and overcome spastic constipation when given in progressive graded doses. Effective dietary manipulations remain a key factor in reducing symptoms in IBS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / diagnosis
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / diet therapy*
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / etiology
  • Food, Formulated
  • Fructose Intolerance / complications
  • Humans
  • Lactose Intolerance / complications
  • Sorbitol / adverse effects


  • Sorbitol