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Can Intermittent Fasting Help With IBS: Everything You Need To Know

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common digestive disorders, impacting more than 35 million Americans. Interestingly, this condition is almost twice as common in women than it is in men.

Its symptoms can last anywhere between a few days to a lifetime. And while there are different ways to alleviate them, most of them include extreme lifestyle modifications that not everyone can implement.

However, intermittent fasting has emerged as a possible IBS treatment in the past few years.

Can time-restricted eating be the key to managing symptoms of IBS? And can it be combined with other remedies for the condition? Let’s find out.

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What Is IBS, What Causes It, and What Are its Symptoms?

Irritable bowel syndrome, more commonly known as IBS, is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects the digestive system. It causes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms like:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Acid reflux
  • Abnormal bowel movements
  • Constipation or diarrhea

These symptoms vary from person to person and tend to appear in flare-ups that may last a few days, weeks, or even months.

Researchers haven’t determined the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome. However, it’s believed that a combination of factors such as small bowel dysmotility, highly sensitive nerves in the GI tract, and brain-gut dysfunction can lead to its development.

Unfortunately, irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that may last a lifetime, as there is no cure for it. And while its sufferers have to live with this disorder, it is possible to manage its symptoms by making lifestyle modifications—and the first recommendation doctors usually make is to change the way you eat.

Recent studies have shown that intermittent fasting may help to reduce the effects of IBS. Let’s find out how.

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Does Intermittent Fasting Help With IBS Symptoms? The Research

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a time-restricted eating pattern in which you concentrate your meals in an eating window of 12 hours or less. It gained popularity as a weight-loss method, but nowadays, it has become a health trend practiced for its numerous health benefits, including:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Lower risk of diabetes
  • Improved heart health
  • And, of course, improving gut health and managing IBS

There is not enough scientific evidence on intermittent fasting and irritable bowel syndrome to claim that fasting will help you completely clear your symptoms. Still, it is believed that it can help alleviate them.

Fasting therapy is recommended for IBS subjects who do not respond to medical treatments. In fact, one study suggests that fasting may improve some of the main IBS symptoms, including nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Whether or not you’ve already tried other methods to deal with your IBS, IF is definitely worth a try.

If you’re not used to sitting on an empty stomach for over 12 hours, or don’t know which fasting style may be more suitable for your circumstances, DoFasting can help you.

DoFasting’s intermittent fasting mobile app is designed to ease your transition into time-restricted eating by helping you choose the best fast type for your needs. Just take their free test, and start fasting! The app also features a handy timer to help you stay on track and multiple recipes that can keep you nourished and full during your fasting periods.

It’s important to note that there’s no single strategy to reduce the effects of IBS in everyone—a process of trial and error is almost inevitable for all IBS patients looking to manage their symptoms.

If your IBS is severely affecting your activities of daily living, consult a physician or registered dietitian immediately.

3 Ways Intermittent Fasting Can Help Your Gut Health

Intermittent fasting may be an excellent option for you if your IBS symptoms are directly related to eating, as numerous processes happen in your body when you don’t eat for prolonged periods of time—some of which may improve your IBS and overall gut health.

Here are 3 processes triggered by intermittent fasting that may help you control your irritable bowel syndrome.

1. May promote autophagy

Autophagy is your body’s recycling system. It’s responsible for destroying damaged cells and using what’s left of them to create new cells. There are many ways to trigger this process, one of which is prolonged fasting.

Research has shown that autophagy plays a crucial part in maintaining the balance of the gut microbiota and intestinal homeostasis, which means that triggering autophagy via fasting can help you improve your gut health and relieve a few effects of IBS.

2. May support MMC function

The migrating motor complex (MMC) is your gut’s cleansing system that moves undigested matter and other residues into the colon. It’s triggered during the fasting state and prevents small intestinal bacterial overgrowth which has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome and is proposed as one of the causes of IBS (although more research is needed to confirm this).

Practicing intermittent fasting may promote proper functioning of the migrating motor complex and reduce the impact of IBS.

3. May balance the gut microbiota

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting alters the gut microbiota—the trillions of microorganisms living in the digestive system that help us process the foods we eat.

More specifically, fasting promotes the growth of “good” gut bacteria and contributes to gut microbial diversity, which is essential for a healthy gut and a strong immune system. This, in turn, may help relieve IBS, although more research is needed before fasting can be used as a treatment.

Does Fasting Have Any Side Effects for IBS?

Intermittent fasting is generally considered safe and can be an effective way to manage IBS. However, in some cases, IF comes with various side effects that may worsen symptoms in IBS patients.

One of the most common side effects of intermittent fasting is bloating and constipation, which may also lead to abdominal discomfort.

Sitting on an empty stomach for long periods can certainly be uncomfortable, cause feelings of hunger, and trigger intense food cravings. If not careful, the latter may lead to overeating once the fasting period is over—aggravating symptoms of IBS.

If you’re considering trying out fasting to relieve your symptoms, consult with a healthcare professional for the best plan for your individual needs.

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Other Remedies for Easing IBS Symptoms

In most cases, IBS is a lifelong condition. And while there is no cure for it, there are different things you can try to reduce some of its most uncomfortable symptoms.

Here are 5 tips for managing the effects of irritable bowel syndrome.

Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms

IBS may be triggered by following the wrong diet for your body and your microbiota. It’s important to identify which foods trigger your bowel and cut them out of your diet.

As a quick summary, here’s a list of gut-friendly foods you can incorporate into your diet to try and reduce the impact of IBS in your life:

  • Lean meat
  • Fatty fish
  • Eggs
  • Avocados
  • Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and other low-fructose fruit
  • Nuts and seeds

There are also foods known for worsening IBS that you may want to avoid from now on. Some of them include:

  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Apples, pears, watermelon, and other high-fructose fruit
  • Peas, beans, and legumes
  • Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners

Trigger foods look different for everyone, so IBS patients need to try an elimination diet—by doing so, you’ll be able to identify which foods upset your gut and reintroduce other foods you need into your diet. You can also take a food sensitivity test to determine whether you have any intolerances, but be careful: not all of them are accurate.

If you need guidance to understand which foods can trigger IBS, you may want to look into the low FODMAP diet—a regime specifically designed to help IBS sufferers to identify their triggers.

Following the low FODMAP plan is relatively straightforward: you just have to avoid the foods indicated for a limited amount of time so the inflammation in your gut has time to decrease. Once you haven’t eaten potential stressors in a while, you can slowly reintroduce them one by one into your diet to identify which foods were upsetting you.

In the end, you’ll be able to follow a semi-normal diet while only avoiding the foods you know were triggering your IBS.

Drink plenty of fluids

Dehydration may worsen some IBS effects like constipation, so it’s essential to consciously drink enough water every day.

A good way to ensure you drink plenty of water is to track your water intake. You can do this with the help of a mobile app like DoFasting—set a goal for yourself (like 8 glasses of water a day), enable water reminders, and log your intake to build a healthy habit.

Exercise regularly

Too many of us lead a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, around 25% of Americans are considered to be physically inactive.

A lack of physical activity can be detrimental to your health, as it may lead to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

On the contrary, regular exercise can help manage these diseases and contribute to a healthy gut. More specifically, research has shown that moderate physical activity may improve IBS.

Here are a few moderate physical activity exercises you can try out:

  • Brisk walking
  • Slow cycling
  • Gentle swimming
  • Playing badminton

You can also do various light to moderate exercises in the comfort of your home. DoFasting’s workout library contains different routines that vary in intensity and target different body parts, while also providing instructions and video footage to help you do each exercise correctly.

Practice stress-reducing activities

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but it can severely impact your health and quality of life if left unchecked. What’s more: studies have found that stress can worsen IBS.

A common suggestion made to patients with this condition is to find ways to reduce stress levels. And while it’s not always possible to avoid getting a bit too nervous, you can try some of these stress-reducing activities to calm yourself down:

Remember that, just like with trigger foods, what works for others may not work for you—it’s essential to experiment with different relaxation techniques before you find the one that works best for you.

Take probiotics

Probiotics are ”good” live bacteria and yeast that promote a healthy gut. These microorganisms grow naturally in foods such as yogurt, kefir, pickles, and kombucha, but you can also take probiotics in the form of supplements.

Recent scientific evidence suggests that taking probiotics may improve several effects of IBS, like reducing abdominal cramps and bloating and improving bowel movements.

If you’re considering taking probiotic supplements, please note that they’re not tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s best to consult your doctor before adding them to your diet.

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Fasting for IBS: Key Takeaways

The treatment for IBS looks different for everyone. A few lifestyle modifications may be all you need to ease some of the effects of IBS in your life, while others may require cognitive therapy and medication.

One of these modifications worth trying is fasting therapy, which can help you improve your gut health and reduce IBS symptoms.

It’s important to note that the research on the effects of fasting on irritable bowel syndrome is still very limited. Before making any lifestyle changes to treat IBS, make sure to consult with a healthcare professional.


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This is an evidence-based article that includes scientific citations. DoFasting’s professional writers and editors prepared the content, which a team of medical experts verified to be accurate.

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