Experts share their advice on how to diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome and manage the symptoms

Schär Registered Dietitian Katie Kennedy and Alison Reid, CEO of the national charity, The IBS Network, provide information and advice on diagnosing and managing your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

how to diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome

How common is IBS? 

Registered Dietitian Katie Kennedy says, “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common condition, with around a third of UK adults saying they have or have suffered symptoms of IBS[i]. This accounts for over 16 million people in the UK alone[ii]. IBS is mo­­­st commonly diagnosed in women aged 30-50 years[iii], however up to 50% of IBS cases remain undiagnosed[iv].”

What symptoms should I look out for? 

Alison Reid, CEO of The IBS Network explains, “Symptoms of IBS can include abdominal pain, sometimes severe, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation. If your symptoms have been experienced for more than six months, it is important that you speak to your GP who may refer you for tests to rule out other conditions like coeliac disease or bowel cancer.  Even if your GP has diagnosed IBS you should always seek further advice if your symptoms change.”

Are there different types of IBS?

Registered Dietitian Katie Kennedy says, “Yes. There are different types of the condition, including IBS with constipation (IBS-C) and IBS with diarrhoea (IBS-D). Some people have an alternating pattern of constipation and diarrhoea, called mixed IBS (IBS-M). Other people do not fit into these categories easily and are called unsubtyped IBS, or IBS-U. Your GP will be able to help you work out what condition you might have.”

Where can I get more information and advice 

“Once you have been diagnosed with IBS by your doctor you may be referred to a Registered Dietitian.  It is important that you seek advice and support from a trusted source, as there is a lot of misinformation on the internet.  Explains Alison Reid of The IBS Network “For example, the information on our website has been written by IBS specialist Gastroenterologists and Gastro Registered Dietitians.”

Registered Dietitian Katie Kennedy says: “Check out Schär’s online information hub, which features recipes, helpful advice and information. Visitors to the site can also sign up for a free pack which includes a booklet about IBS and the low FODMAP diet, recipe cards, and a helpful fridge sticker which outlines foods that are safe to eat.”

What triggers my IBS

Registered Dietitian Katie Kennedy says, “Stress and a hectic lifestyle play a big part in provoking IBS flare-ups. Simple steps such as ensuring you eat regular meals and snacks, taking more time over meals, and participating in regular exercise can help reduce IBS symptoms for some people. Water is also important in helping to keep your digestive system functioning properly. If you are suffering from constipation, water can help make stools softer, and if you are suffering from diarrhoea make sure you drink plenty of water to help keep hydrated. Research has also shown that gut-directed hypnotherapy and yoga may also assist in the management of this condition.”

how to diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What other things can I do to help manage my IBS? 

Alison Reid CEO of The IBS Network explains: “There are lots of other ways to help manage IBS symptoms with simple dietary and lifestyle changes.  Limiting your intake of caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks, ensuring you get enough sleep and look at ways to help you manage stress in your daily life.”

How can a low FODMAP diet help?

Registered Dietitian Katie Kennedy explains, “While first line advice for managing IBS focuses on simple dietary and lifestyle changes, individuals who find their symptoms persist should consider speaking to a dietitian about other dietary changes that could help their symptoms – such as following a low FODMAP diet.”

“The low FODMAP diet can help to reduce and manage IBS symptoms. It has been found to improve symptoms in 70-75% of patients[iv]. FODMAPs are carbohydrates (sugars) that are not easily digested by the gut and removing high FODMAP foods from your diet for a period of 4-8 weeks and then carefully reintroducing them, can help you identify trigger foods that might be causing your IBS flare-ups. A low FODMAP diet should only be followed under the guidance of a Registered Dietitian.”

How will I know which foods I can eat when following a low FODMAP diet?

“Your dietitian will guide you as to what foods you can eat when following the 4-8 week low FODMAP diet. Schär has also recently launched a range of 10 products, which have been certified as low FODMAP. Clear stickering can be found on-pack so that the products are easily identifiable in-store,” explains Registered Dietitian Katie Kennedy.

For more information about IBS and its management, please visit:


[i] Schär Omnibus results, YouGov survey, Fieldwork Dates: 8th – 9th November 2017

[ii] Latest ONS overview of the UK population: July 2017 (2016 dataset)

[iii] Canavan C, West J & Card T. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Epidemiol 2014; 6: 71-80.

[iv] Spiller R et al (2007). Guidelines on the irritable bowel syndrome: mechanisms and practical management. Gut. 2007 Dec;56(12):1770-98

[iv] Halmos EP et al (2014). A diet low in FODMAPs reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology 146 (1):67-75.