IBS: Soluble Fiber May Be Best Treatment

By Ali Luke

Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) should be eating a diet rich in soluble fiber, a new study suggests.

A small Dutch study of 275 patients, aged 18-65, and published in the British Medical Journal, has highlighted questions about the effectiveness of bran as a treatment for IBS.The study was led by Dr C J Bijkerk, in an attempt to discover whether extra soluble fibre (psyllium), or insoluble fibre (bran), would help patients with IBS. Participants in the study were given 10g of either psyllium, bran, or rice flour (a placebo), twice a day for 12 weeks.

Researchers found that the psyllium, a naturally-occurring vegetable fiber, had a beneficial effect, with symptoms being reduced by 90 points on a standard scale. The patients taking bran saw a 58 point decrease, and the placebo group had a 49 point decrease. However, the rate of early drop out from the study was highest in the bran group, with patients reporting that their symptoms had increased.

Although this is a small study, it does suggest that soluble fiber is more effective, than insoluble fiber in treating IBS. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of food through the intestines, whereas soluble fiber binds with fatty acids and prolongs stomach emptying time.

If you have IBS, you may want to try increasing your intake of soluble fiber (though do talk to your doctor about dietary changes).

Good sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Oats and oat bran
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Nuts
  • Barley
  • Flax seed
  • Some fruits, eg. apples, oranges and strawberries
  • Psyllium, which was used in the study

The researchers felt that supplementation was needed, though. One of the scientists, Dr Niek de Wit said:

It is unlikely that people with IBS would get enough from fruit and other foods to help them… I think adding psyllium to the diet is the best treatment option to start with. In the study, people did this by adding it to things such as yoghurt and it had a real effect.

Do you suffer from IBS? What have you found to be helpful?


  1. rla26368

    I’ve had IBS for over 20 years. I was diagnosed in my 20’s. In my early 40’s I discovered soluble fiber supplements. I add it to my morning coffee. Urgency, loose stools and crampng disappear within two days of regular use. It’s a miracle as far as I’m concerned. I’m normal again, at least that part of me is! (:

  2. Denise

    I eat mainly soluble fiber for my severe IBS and find that I get less severe cramping attacks but it won’t help any other symtoms sadly.

  3. seattlehealth

    What I found interesting about this study was the lack of attention payed to food allergies/intolerances. The results of the study revealed an increase in symptoms for those participants consuming the bran supplementation – what was the source of the bran? wheat bran, corn bran, oat bran? One of the two main causes of IBS is food allergies/intolerances. With wheat being one of the most common food allergies, there is a great possibility that if the bran consumed was obtained from a wheat source, or other gluten source (ex: barley or rye) that the bran itself may have exacerbated the IBS symptoms. If this is the case, than it would be incorrect to assume that soluble fiber may act as an effective treatment option for IBS, based on the results of this study alone.

  4. Jeanne229

    Sounds like a good thing to try.

  5. Cindae H

    I use a psyllium/flax combo that is extremely helpful for me. I don’t have IBS, but I just use this daily to boost my fiber intake. My recipe is as follows.
    1 c. flax seed, ground to a flour in a coffee mill
    1 c. psyllium husk ground
    To that I add some or all of the following spices.
    3T cinnamon
    1 T. ginger
    1 t. cayenne pepper
    1 t. cardamom

    all are soothing and healing herbs/spices.
    I take 1 tablespoon per day, in a full glass of water, mixed with about 1 oz of juice. It is a cheap and easy way to boost my fiber.
    YOu must take the psyllium with a lot of water. If you eat it in yogurt, make sure you drink with it also.

  6. TonyK

    I’ve never had this problem, but my sister-in-law had it and eliminated it by drinking aloe-vera juice.

  7. Kellie - My Health Software

    I meant to add that if you take psyllium make sure you drink lots of water.

  8. Spectra

    I have IBS, but I keep it under control by eating lots and LOTS of fruits and veggies and nuts. The doctor who felt that psyllium supplementation was needed obviously never saw someone eat like I do…I get a lot of fiber in my diet every day and I’m very regular.

  9. Kellie - My Health Software

    This study rings true for me. I keep a bag of psyllium husks in the fridge and when I don’t feel right I’ll add a spoonful to my oats at breakfast and it helps to keep things moving.

  10. Jody - Fit at 51

    I eat a good combo of both so & eat healthy in general. This is a small study but if it can help the IBS people, why not give it a try. The foods are good for you!