3. Drink Wisely
Getting enough fluids helps flush out your digestive system and boost your digestion while also protecting your gut health. If you have IBS, focus on non-caffeinated beverages, such as water, coconut water, and herbal teas.
Avoid coffee, sweet drinks (including those made with artificial, no-calorie sweeteners) and alcohol. Not only do these “bad” beverages provoke IBS symptoms directly, but they’re also stimulants that may stress your nervous system, and this mental/emotional aspect can also impact your digestive tract and your IBS.
4. Take Probiotics
Probiotics are supplements that help to populate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Some researchers believe there’s a link between gut bacteria and IBS, especially because the gut bacteria in people with or without IBS is very different.
“Although probiotics seem to offer some benefit in IBS as a whole, the optimal approach in terms of which individual species, strains, or combinations to use, and at what dose and for what duration, remains unknown,” warns the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
If you have IBS and want to see if probiotics make a difference, the journal recommends the following: “Take it for a minimum of four weeks at the dose recommended by the manufacturer. If within the four-week treatment, the probiotic proves to be beneficial, the administration may be continued, although the long-term effects are not known.”
The Elephant in the Room: Gluten
Many IBS diet recommendations you may stumble across online or in-person try to address the elephant in the room: gluten and grains. And yet in many cases, this attempt to say “yes” or “no” to gluten falls flat on its face.
That’s because while many people automatically defer to the idea that gluten is bad for IBS, the actual studies that have researched this continue to reach conflicting conclusions about this specific food ingredient.
For some, avoiding gluten has led to a reduction in IBS symptoms, even if you don’t have a wheat allergy. This is known as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”
For others, removing gluten encourages them to remove specific foods and its these foods themselves that may be affecting their digestion (not the gluten specifically). For example, wheat grains are a high FODMAP food, and it might be these fermenting carbohydrates that are troubling your digestive tract, not the gluten.
If you wish to experiment with gluten-free eating, and that brings you relief, trust your gut (pun intended). Just know that the research is still inconclusive, and what works for you (or a friend) may not apply to everyone.
Living With IBS: What More Can You Do?
Diet goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle. Besides changing HOW you eat and WHAT you eat, allow your IBS diet to guide you towards an overall healthy approach to life.
Try these proven IBS-reducing lifestyle strategies as part of your new approach to living:
- Reduce stress, which impacts your digestion. Consider deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga to help soothe your nervous system.
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day. You don’t have to join a gym. It could be as simple as going for a walk with your dog. Movement helps food move through your colon and intestines.
- Get enough sleep. Not enough sleep can trigger IBS symptoms, and catching more shut-eye can help your body to regulate stress more efficiently, and heal your gut faster.
Finally, don’t turn a blind eye to your symptoms. Many people never truly understand what triggers their IBS and what soothes their gut.
Make it a habit to track what you eat, how much of it you eat, and when you eat. Then, journal your IBS journey: When you notice flare-ups, and how you feel throughout the day.
Review these food and life logs regularly to see if you can establish any patterns. Both diet and IBS are intensely personal journeys and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to alleviating your symptoms. By tracking your own personal experience, you can discuss and plan with your doctor and a dietitian to find an IBS diet approach that works perfectly for you and your journey.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” Hippocrates famously said. In this case, he was exactly right. Your food may be both the cause, and the solution, to your IBS. By making the right choices, you can find the healing you so desperately desire.