Live better with irritable bowel syndrome: lifestyle changes that can help

In addition to managing your diet and eating habits, general lifestyle changes can improve your IBS symptoms.

3 simples change to make

Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life

Increase the amount of exercise

Get enough sleep

Reduce stress

Although IBS is not caused by stress, increased stress can trigger symptoms or make them worse.4

Taking steps to reduce the levels of stress in your life may help reduce the frequency and severity of your IBS symptoms. 3 Some ways to help relieve stress include the following:

  • relaxation techniques, such as meditation or breathing exercises
  • physical activities, such as yoga or Tai Chi*, and regular exercise 3

If you are finding that stress is a problem in your life, you may benefit from a talking therapy, such as stress counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy. This will be a topic in the next article in this series, Treatment solutions for irritable bowel syndrome.

Increase exercise

Exercise can be a good way to de-stress2 and help to relieve the symptoms of most (but not all) people with IBS. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, yoga, or Tai Chi, can help reduce stress levels and improve your IBS symptoms. 2 Your doctor will be able to advise you about whether exercise is suitable for you.3

If exercise is suitable for you, you should aim to engage in a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise each day at least five times a week.3

The exercise should be strenuous enough to increase both your heart rate and breathing rate. This could include3:

–  Walking briskly and walking up a hill
–  Going to the swimming pool
–  Taking the stairs instead of the lift

Talk to your doctor

If you have not been formally diagnosed with IBS or even if you have, there is also a chance that not fully understanding your IBS is adding to your stress.2 Active and honest communication with your healthcare provider can really help.2 Your doctor can provide more information on treatment options, such as medications and complementary therapies. Keep reading to learn more about the treatment options available for IBS.


  • A strong partnership between a knowledgeable patient and an empathetic, knowledgeable health care provider can produce significant improvement and control over symptoms for individuals with IBS.
  • The first line of treatment for IBS includes general measures such as: establishing an effective patient-physician relationship, obtaining education about IBS, and implementing lifestyle changes, which may be associated with symptoms. 2
  • Consulting your doctor is the first step in developing a partnership that can improve your health and quality of life. Consider making an appointment with your doctor today.

*a Chinese martial art


  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Accessed 01.10.2020
  2. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Treatments for IBS. Accessed 01.10.2020
  3. Nursing Times. Gastroenterology: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Accessed 01.10.2020
  4. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. IBS Treatment Options. Accessed 01.10.2020