Dietary treatment of irritable bowel syndrome

Br Med Bull. 2015 Mar;113(1):83-90. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldu039. Epub 2015 Jan 19.


Introduction: Food is a recognized trigger for most patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In recent years, an emerging evidence base has identified dietary manipulation as an important therapeutic approach in IBS.

Sources of data: Original and review articles were identified through selective searches performed on PubMed and Google Scholar.

Areas of agreement: Randomized controlled trials have supported the use of a diet that restricts a group of short-chain carbohydrates known collectively as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs). There is evidence that specific probiotics may improve symptoms in IBS.

Areas of controversy: The role of a high-fibre diet remains subject to ongoing debate with a lack of high-quality evidence. The long-term durability and safety of a low FODMAP diet are unclear.

Growing points: A paradigm shift has led to a focus on the relationship between diet and pathophysiological mechanisms in IBS such as effects on intestinal microbiota, inflammation, motility, permeability and visceral hypersensitivity.

Areas timely for developing research: Future large, randomized controlled trials with rigorous end points are required. In addition, predictors of response need to be identified to offer personalized therapy.

Keywords: FODMAP; carbohydrate; diet; fibre; gluten; irritable bowel syndrome; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet Therapy*
  • Dietary Fiber / adverse effects*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Fermentation
  • Fructose / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / immunology
  • Monosaccharides / adverse effects*
  • Oligosaccharides / adverse effects*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Sorbitol / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Monosaccharides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Fructose
  • Sorbitol