Tips for Creating an IBS Diet Plan
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects up to 15 percent of Americans, making it the #1 disorder diagnosed by doctors who specialize on your gut and digestive tract health.
Because this extremely common disorder, and its symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, bloating and cramping, affects your digestive tract, people have long wondered: Can diet play a role in IBS risks and IBS symptom management?
The answer, in short, is yes!
What Causes IBS?
IBS has a wide range of both physical, as well as emotional/mental, factors that may prompt its occurrence. On the physical side, there are aspects like food motility (food moving too slowly, or too quickly, through your digestive tract), genetics and gut bacteria. On the emotional/mental frontier, things like stress or anxiety can also provoke IBS symptoms.
Diet, interestingly, may be one of the most powerful lifestyle factors within your control that can help to ease, or even completely eliminate, your symptoms of IBS.
"In recent years, dietary management has shown promise as a key tool in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome," concludes a 2017 report published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. This report, along with University of Michigan research that claims to be the world’s largest study on IBS and diet, offers key findings that may help provide you with hope, guidance, and relief.
No Matter the Diet, Remember the Timing
How often do you catch yourself scarfing down your meal while multitasking, whether it’s getting the kids ready for school or driving to a work meeting? How often are you so busy that you skip a meal, and then you over-indulge in the next meal?
Many people with IBS find that their bodies react better to their food when they slow down and eat smaller, more frequent meals. This may be because IBS can be triggered by how quickly, or how slowly, food enters and moves through your digestive tract.
A powerful way to manage your IBS symptoms through slower eating is by practicing mindful eating. Mindful eating helps you to become more aware of your hunger and your fullness and encourages you to slow down your meals, which in turn has been linked to better weight management and improved digestion.
Mindful eating has even been shown to potentially help with the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates and fats, which are two very common triggers for people with IBS.
To practice mindful eating, simply bring your awareness to your food. Only eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored or stressed or anxious. Chew slowly, noticing the flavors, textures, and sensations of every bite. Take a pause between each bite. Be mindful and aware, and you just might start to see a shift in your IBS!
Four Simple IBS Diet Tips
Now that you have a better understanding of how diet and mindful eating can help your IBS symptoms, it's time to move onto some IBS diet tips to help create your own IBS diet and diet plan.
1. Cut the Fat
Reducing or eliminating fat in your IBS diet is often the most commonly considered diet change among men and women with IBS. And for the right reason.
Some kinds of fat slow down how quickly your bowels move, and can even cause gas retention, which is linked with cramping and bloating. Another type of fat may affect your colorectal system.
It’s important to note that there are not very many studies that specifically look into the IBS-and-fat dietary connection. However, anecdotally, many adults with IBS report relief when they avoid high-fat meals. This is especially true if your IBS flares up due to how slowly or quickly food moves through your digestive tract.
2. Monitor Your Carbohydrates
Some people notice an immediate reduction, or even an elimination, of IBS symptoms when they track and restrict certain kinds of carbohydrates. The specific carbohydrates to avoid are known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs).
FODMAPs aren’t absorbed well by the human digestive tract, and the bacteria that cause them to ferment in your small intestine can cause excessive gas production, abdominal pain, cramping and more.
According to one study, 50 percent of people in a clinical trial who were put on a low-FODMAPs diet saw major improvements in their IBS experience.
Low-FODMAP foods to eat for IBS include:
- Vegetables: Bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, potatoes, sprouts, tomato, and zucchini.
- Fruits: Bananas, blueberries, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, etc.), grapes, and strawberries.
- Protein: Lean beef, chicken, lean fish, eggs, and tofu and other soy products, and lactose-free dairy and non-dairy milk (i.e., almond milk).
- Grains, nuts, and seeds: Almonds, peanuts, oats, quinoa, rice, and walnuts.
High-FODMAP foods to avoid with IBS:
- Vegetables: Asparagus, cruciferous veggies (i.e., broccoli and cauliflower), legumes (i.e., beans and lentils), mushrooms, onions and garlic, and sweetcorn.
- Fruits: Apples, blackberries, dried fruits, fruit juices, pears, stone fruits (i.e., apricots and peaches), and watermelon.
- Protein: Lactose dairy.
- Grains, nuts, and seeds: Wheat, rye, and most nuts not listed above.