Do you feel like the perfect IBS diet is just out of your reach? But it’s out there somewhere, if only you knew where to look?

Sometimes we need to change our eating habits to improve IBS symptoms or digestive issues.

You may wish for a quick fix like a pill or a magic supplement to help you feel better, but often it is small changes in our day to day lives is what will make the difference.

In a way, this is quite bad news because changing eating habits can be hard!

But, here are some of the reasons why we develop unconscious eating habits and what you can do to create healthier eating habits for IBS.

1. Eating what everyone else is

If everyone around you eats unhealthily it’s easier to believe your diet isn’t that bad. And if you’re the only with IBS, it can feel very unfair that you react to foods your family are ok with.

When you start to make changes to your diet you might begin to notice there are other ways to eat, drink and live.

It can be really hard to be the one to break with the social norms around you. To be the one saying you don’t want to drink, or you want to go for a run this weekend. Especially if those around you don’t see those kind of things as something ‘you’ would do.

We can slip into unhealthy habits by trying to fit in socially, even when you know it will benefit your IBS. 

Healthy Eating Habit for IBS – If you’re ready to change your diet, or start an exercise programme explain your reasons for making your changes to your social circle.

Your friends and family will still love you if you choose not to have the crisps, or you decide to take up an exercise class.


2. Lack of nutrition understanding

We don’t get taught about nutrition at school, and even doctors don’t really get taught nutrition at medical school, so it’s not surprising as a population we don’t have a good understanding of what food does to our body.

And digestive issues such as IBS or SIBO are complex conditions, so it’s easy to get confused.

There is also a huge amount of conflicting nutrition information online all offering different advice for people with IBS. Go low carb!  Focus on protein! Eat only fat and protein (keto)! Eat only plant based foods! It’s not surprising you don’t know who to believe.

Healthy Eating Habit for IBS – Start with learning the basics of nutrition from sources you trust. Look for people who are qualified nutritional therapists, or registered nutritionists.

gram flour wrap with tomatoes, sweetcorn, refried beans, coriander and cheese, against a light blue table

3. Ignoring messages from your body

One of my clients said she’d forgotten what food she enjoyed eating, because she was so used to only thinking about what she could eat that wouldn’t trigger a bloated stomach.

Many of my clients override their hunger because they are afraid to eat in case it sets off another episode. 

We have busy lives and perhaps you run out the door without breakfast in the morning, then you grab a cookie with your morning coffee at work. Erratic eating patterns don’t help you when you have IBS, regular meals are important. 

Perhaps you forget to drink water, so you think you feel hungry, but actually you’re very thirsty.

It’s easy when we’re rushing about to miss the signals from our body telling us we are hungry or full.  

Perhaps you also can’t stop eating, and you have lost connection to the sensations of feeling full. This can happen when you regularly eat more than your body needs.

It’s also much easier to eat more than your body needs if you eat very quickly. This is because your satiety triggers don’t have time to register.

Healthy Eating Habit for IBS – Before you reach for another biscuit, consider if you’re thirsty, tired, bored or whether you need some food that is going to give you energy. Get back in touch with your feelings of appetite – when are you really hungry, and when do you feel full.

4. Emotional Eating with IBS

When you crave more love, support or connection you may have learnt to turn to food as a comfort. The problem is that the need or the emotions are often still there after you’ve eaten the food. 

Maybe you eat to stop very difficult emotions. Looking at the source of our emotional discomfort and how we can address it may help to change your eating habits.

Healthy eating habits is more than just food

Healthy Eating Habit for IBS – Look into talking therapy which can really help support your emotions. Exercise also helps to let off steam in a healthy way and can support feelings of stress, anger or guilt.


5. Habitual snacking

Do you always have some food next to you whilst you’re working? Or maybe you always have a biscuit with your tea when you first get in the house?

Whatever it is these routines become part of our reward structures and we can feel like we’re missing out if we change these habit.

Most people should be able to last between meals without snacking. If you can’t last for 4-5 hours, then look at what you’re eating at mealtimes to ensure it’s got enough protein, fats and fibre to fill you up.

Healthy Eating Habit for IBS – look at what triggers the habit you want to change. If you always have a biscuit with your tea then drink your tea in a different place in the house, or chose water instead so you’re breaking the association. Or move the snacks away from your desk so you need to get up and consciously move to eat them rather than eating without thinking.

Also – taking up a craft to do in the evenings whilst watching tv instead of eating can help keep your hands busy.

IBS Nutritionist

Hi, I'm Anna Mapson, registered Nutritional Therapist.

I help people with IBS and SIBO get control of unpredictable gut symptoms to find long term relief from painful and embarrassing IBS without restrictive dieting.

I can help you to:

  • understand your digestion better, so you recognise your triggers
  • eat a well balanced diet, with tasty meals that are simple to prepare
  • reintroduce your trigger foods so you can get back to enjoying food again

Find more about my 3 month 1:1 Gut Reset programme. 

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