Efficacy of a Restrictive Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-analysis

Korean J Gastroenterol. 2022 Jul 25;80(1):6-16. doi: 10.4166/kjg.2022.014.


Background/aims: Dietary factors can aggravate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Many IBS patients try restrictive diets to relieve their symptoms, but the types of diets with an exacerbating factor are unknown. Therefore, this paper reports the results of a systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) reviewing the efficacy of food restriction diets in IBS.

Methods: The MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Clinicaltrials.gov databases were searched until July 21, 2021, to retrieve RCTs assessing the efficacy of restriction diets in adults with IBS. Two independent reviewers performed the eligibility assessment and data abstraction. RCTs that evaluated a restriction diet versus a control diet and assessed the improvement in global IBS symptoms were included. These trials reported a dichotomous assessment of the overall response to therapy.

Results: A total of 1,949 citations were identified. After full-text screening, 14 RCTs were considered eligible for the systematic review and network meta-analysis. A starch- and sucrose-reduced diet and a diet with low-fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) showed significantly better results than a usual diet. Symptom flare-ups in patients on a gluten- free diet were also significantly lower than in those on high-gluten diets.

Conclusions: These findings showed that the starch- and sucrose-reduced, low FODMAP, and gluten-free diets had superior effects in reducing IBS symptoms. Further studies, including head-to-head trials will be needed to establish the effectiveness of dietary restrictions on IBS symptoms.

Keywords: Irritable bowel syndrome; Network meta-analysis; Restrictive diet therapy; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted
  • Diet, Gluten-Free
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / therapy
  • Monosaccharides
  • Network Meta-Analysis
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Starch
  • Sucrose


  • Monosaccharides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Sucrose
  • Starch