Series: Coping with IBS during COVID-19


Dakota Rhys-Jones - Research Dietitian, 20 March 2020

There is no doubt that the effects of COVID-19 are immense, and is rippling through almost all aspects of life, as we once knew it. This virus has taught the world that we are all connected more than we thought, in times like these, it is important for the global community to come together.

We have been thinking here at Monash FODMAP about how we can best support those on their low FODMAP journey during this time, and decided upon a COVID-19 series for you.

Topic: IBS symptoms and hygiene.

Everyone should know by now to wash your hands regularly during this pandemic, something that seems so simple, but is so effective. Right now is a time of extra anxiety all around the world, and we know that there is a strong link between IBS and anxiety (1). For some people with IBS, this may mean they find themselves running to the bathroom a few extra times in the day due to this extra stress. Poor hygiene practices, such as not washing hands properly, increases risk of transmission of pathogens through the faecal-oral route. This does not mean you are going to catch corona virus through this route, but possibly other harmful bacteria and pathogens.

Governments around the world are pushing the population to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. If you are someone who is finding themselves visiting the toilet more times in a day, this could mean minutes spent washing your hands each day. Remember to get in between and on the back of all fingers and hands, as well as the fingernails!

The other thing we cannot ignore in all of this, what if you don’t have enough soap/hand sanitizer, or toilet paper? With the amount of panic buying out there, there are most likely some readers who are low on supplies, and thus may be more stringent when using their toilet paper and washing their hands. This may increase the risk of bacterial transmission through that faecal-oral route. A quick online search gives hundreds of homemade hand sanitizer recipes using in varying quantities. 

Here are a few tips for soap alternatives should you be running out: 

  • Products such as dishwashing liquid & body wash work just as well as regular soap for hand washing
  • Antibacterial soaps are not required to wash hands effectively, the regular variety works just as well 
  • If soap or alternatives are not available, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with clean, running water is still effective and a better option than not washing them at all 

For those running low on toilet paper, it’s important to remember that if you are using another product like baby wipes or paper towels, don’t flush them down the toilet. This can cause blockages of the drains, and in times like these, that is the last thing you need! What we suggest is to ensure you have a small bin in the toilet, line it with a bin bag, and get creative.

The Monash FODMAP team hope you all stay safe during this time. Please send through to any ideas that might be useful!


1.            Pinto-Sanchez MI, Ford AC, Avila CA, Verdu EF, Collins SM, Morgan D, et al. Anxiety and Depression Increase in a Stepwise Manner in Parallel With Multiple FGIDs and Symptom Severity and Frequency. Am J Gastroenterol. 2015;110(7):1038-48.

2.            Dissanayeke S, McEyvoy J. Homemade hand sanitiser recipes that could help protect against coronavirus London: The Conversation; 2020 [Available from:

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