Can a dietitian help with IBS?

May 8, 2024

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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Key Points

  • Diet is one of the best ways to treat IBS. 
  • Registered dietitians are the most qualified nutrition professionals to help with IBS treatment.
  • Make the most of your appointment with an RD by preparing a food journal and questions about your treatment.

Irritable bowel syndrome can be difficult to treat – so how much of a role can diet play in IBS treatment? Food can be one of the most effective ways to ease IBS symptoms like bloat, gas, abdominal pain, and abnormal bowel movements.

In fact, in a survey of over 1500 gastroenterologists, over 90% of respondents felt that dietary therapies were at least as good as better than other treatments for IBS, and more than three-quarters report recommending dietary changes to their IBS patients.

So if you're wondering if a dietitian can help with IBS – the answer is absolutely yes. Registered dietitians are the most qualified nutrition professional to help treat irritable bowel syndrome. Keep reading to learn how a dietitian can help with IBS and how to find an IBS dietitian.

What is the best diet for IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a blanket diagnosis for general digestive issues. Symptoms of IBS include diarrhea, cramping, bloating, and more. IBS is usually diagnosed by a gastroenterologist and can be treated by both a GI doctor and a registered dietitian.

Diet is typically the first line of treatment for IBS. Because IBS is a generalized diagnosis, there are many different foods that might irritate some people but not others. Similarly, there are some dietary treatments that might work for some and not others. Recent randomized, controlled trials suggest that diet therapies provide adequate relief to 50–70% of IBS sufferers, meaning diet has a pretty good chance of improving your symptoms.

One of the most-recommended diets for IBS is the low FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols – short-chain fermentable carbohydrates that exist in fruits, vegetables, legumes, lactose, and grains. These carbs often ferment in the gut and cause excess gas and bloating. So, the elimination diet removes all high FODMAP foods then slowly reintroduces each group to see which might irritate IBS symptoms.

Other IBS diets include the gluten-free diet, lactose-free diet, or generally removing other gas-producing foods.

How a dietitian can help with IBS

Working with a GI dietitian is one of the most effective ways to treat your IBS symptoms and improve your quality of life. RDs have the knowledge and experience to analyze your symptoms, flare-ups, and behaviors to design the best IBS diet for you.

Here's how IBS dietitians can help:

  • Assess your current diet and lifestyle as well as symptoms and known triggers
  • Create a personalized IBS diet plan, which can include symptom management, symptom tracking, and/or an elimination diet
  • Check-in regularly to monitor your symptoms and progress
  • Make changes as needed
  • Provide IBS education to empower you to take care into your own hands, as well as provide all the support you need along the way

In the previously mentioned gastroenterologist survey, over 70% of respondents believed having direct access to registered dietitians with an IBS focus would enhance the delivery of dietary therapy. As board-certified nutrition providers, RDs are some of the most qualified professionals who can help with IBS and other gastro issues.

Find an IBS dietitian here.

Preparing for your appointment with an IBS dietitian

Once you've booked an appointment with an IBS dietitian, there is some prep you can do to make the most of your appointment.

Keep a food and symptoms log

Most dietitians will ask about your standard diet. One of the best ways to report this accurately is by keeping a food diary and symptom log where you track what you eat and how you feel over the course of a few days. Rest assured: your dietitian isn't judging your diet! They simply need to see what you're eating in order to make recommendations.

It's important that you keep record accurately and with enough detail. Part of a day's entry might include:

7:00 AM - woke up with stomach cramps (5/10 pain)

7:30 AM - drank a cup of coffee

8:30 AM - ate an egg on whole wheat toast

10:00 AM - more stomach cramps (6/10 pain)

11:00 AM - diarrhea (3/10 severity)

Prepare your medical history

Your dietitian will ask about your medical history, including diagnoses and treatments. They will want to know about everything you've tried to treat IBS so far, including diets, medication, and other lifestyle changes. If you have notes from a gastroenterologist or another doctor, feel free to share them. The more information you can provide the better, as it will only help your RD create a more individualized IBS treatment plan.

Bring questions

Your intake appointment isn't just about your RD asking questions about your history. It's also your opportunity to ask your own questions to ensure you feel as confident and knowledgeable as possible about your course of treatment. Questions can include:

  • Can I still eat my favorite foods?
  • How important is meal timing?
  • What should I do if I experience a flare-up?
  • Should I be taking any supplements?/
  • What should I do about special occasions where I can't control exactly what I'm eating?

Your dietitian will provide support and guidance for all of the above and beyond. They are there not just to create an IBS diet but to support you as you try different avenues, like the low FODMAP diet, a gluten-free diet, or another elimination diet. There is no such thing as a bad question! Your RD wants you to feel confident in your treatment.

Often, things like the low FODMAP diet or other IBS treatments can feel complicated and overwhelming. Your GI dietitian is there to help educate you on the treatment and how it works. They can provide plenty of resources like recipes and meal plans to set you up for success.

Following your intake appointment, you will meet with your RD on a regular basis to track what's working and what isn't. Be sure to continue taking note of symptoms and how they correlate with your intake so that you can accurately report what's going on.

Finding an IBS dietitian

When it comes to managing IBS symptoms, it's important to work with a professional who has expertise in GI disorders like IBS. Registered dietitians are some of the most qualified providers to treat IBS, and plenty of them specialize in IBS specifically.

When you work with Fay Nutrition, you get matched with a board-certified RD specializing in IBS who is covered by your health insurance. This means you can get top-quality care for as little as $10 per session. Plus, Fay bills directly to insurance on your behalf so you don't have to worry.

Find an IBS dietitian near you and get started today.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.

  • Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility - Use of Dietary Management in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Results of a Survey of Over 1500 United States Gastroenterologists

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Maeve Ginsberg

Written by Maeve Ginsberg

Maeve Ginsberg is a health and wellness writer with a personal passion for fitness. As an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and former powerlifter, she loves combining her interests in health with her writing. Maeve has a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. 

Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected, and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.