What Foods Can Help Manage IBS?

| Sarah Johnson MS, RD, CFP

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists, and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians. ¹ While it is commonly diagnosed, unfortunately, it is not commonly understood. 

IBS is a complex syndrome with many underlying factors.  Research shows us that lifestyle changes have the greatest impact on IBS symptoms.  Here are a few great places to start. 

#1. Increase your Sunshine Vitamin:

Recent studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in those diagnosed with IBS and that those with the lowest Vitamin D levels report the highest severity of symptoms.²

Vitamin D while crucial to the body must be obtained by the sun, supplement, or food.

What should you do next

  • Start by asking your MD to check your Vitamin D levels.  This is a simple test. 
  • Talk with your doctor or dietitian about the proper amount of Vitamin D3 to be taking. 
  • Increase your intake of Vitamin D:  When sunshine is not available, some foods you can start to add to your diet now are fatty fish such as salmon, cod liver oil, egg yolks, or fortified foods such as cereals or orange juice. 

#2. Know that your symptoms are not in your head…. but there is a connection!

A common recommendation for those with IBS is to try Yoga or meditation- things that can calm the mind.  This is because we know that there is a connection between stress and symptoms.  Serotonin, or the “happy” hormone, is often talked about in its role in depression and anxiety, but 95% of our serotonin is found in your gut.  Serotonin influences your mood and your gut’s activity. So, while it can become a “which came first- the chicken or the egg” scenario, what we do know, is that if your gut is not working well, your mind likely is not either. ³

  • Foods that help boost serotonin: Salmon, eggs, spinach, and seeds.  Bonus- a few of these provide both vitamin D and serotonin!
  • Vitamin B6 is a precursor of serotonin, so make sure you are getting enough of that important vitamin found in pork, poultry, and oats.
  • Some probiotics can help restore and maintain proper gut serotonin levels.  Talk to your dietitian about which probiotic is right for you.

#3: Eliminate your trigger foods:

This sounds obvious, however to many it also sounds overwhelming and often gets skipped.  With up to 89% of those living with IBS reporting their symptoms are triggered by food, this is the most important aspect in gaining control over IBS symptoms.4 A common dietary approach to treat IBS is known as the FODMAPS diet.5 FODMAPS is an elimination diet, focused on removing short-chain carbohydrates that tend to be poorly digested.  While this diet can be extreme, not everyone needs to follow the diet 100% to see results. 

Commonly reported trigger foods are:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Caffeine
  • Fried foods

One cannot simply focus on what needs to be cut out without asking what should be added. 

Gut Healing Foods:

  • Bone Broth
  • Sauerkraut (tip- don’t like the taste? Cook it in your bone broth)
  • Probiotic-rich foods (First- discuss the potential of SIBO with a dietitian)

While everyone can do some trial-and-error investigative work on their own, too many failed attempts can be draining.  Working closely with a dietitian trained in IBS and food sensitivities can help streamline the process, making it far more manageable and less overwhelming- and who doesn’t want to be more successful with less work?!

Live Your Life can help! Contact us today to schedule your dietary assessment!

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson MS, RD
LYL Registered Dietitian

Sarah Johnson, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with a strong passion for helping people discover the healing power of food.

Today’s world offers more nutrition information at our fingertips than ever before. However, when it comes to nutrition, there is no one size fits all solution leading many to feel exhausted by years of “trial & error”. Sarah’s mission is to help people weed through the noise and to educate and empower them on simple ways food can help them regain their energy for life. She believes your body was designed to work well; you simply need the tools to get it back on track.

Sarah graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a B.A. in Dietetics and went on to receive an M.S. in Human Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin Stout where she focused on using nutrition to help those living with multiple sclerosis and other inflammatory diseases.

Sarah lives in Mahtomedi with her husband and 3 children and loves the access to nature Minnesota living provides all year round.


1“Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” American College of Gastroenterology, 2021, https://gi.org/topics/irritable-bowel-syndrome/

2Khayyat, Yasir; Attar, Suzan. “Vitamin D Deficiency in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Does it Exist?” Oman Medical Journal, Vol.30, No. 2, pp. 115-118, doi: 10.5001/omj.2015.25

3“The gut-brain connection.” Hudson Physicians, 26 Oct. 2019, https://hudsonphysicians.com/gut-health/

4“Symptom Triggers.” IBS Council, 2019, https://www.ibscounsel.com/About/triggers

5“Low-FODMAP Diet.” WebMD, 24 June 2020, https://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/what-is-fodmap

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