Diet Changes May Improve IBS Symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder affecting between 25 and 45 million Americans.
The cause of IBS is unknown and there is no cure, but symptoms can be managed. One way to manage IBS symptoms is by making healthy diet choices.
IBS’s Link to Diet
You may notice your IBS symptoms get worse after a meal. Researchers believe stomach muscles and nerves are over-responsive in IBS patients and this may cause your bowel to overact after eating.
There is no direct evidence that certain foods affect some people differently, and diet is not the cause of IBS. But at least 50 percent of IBS sufferers report worsening IBS symptoms after eating and as much as 54 percent find relief when they avoid and limit certain foods from their diet, according to a 2014 report.
Therefore, it is possible that avoiding certain foods may help you to manage IBS symptoms.
Modifying Your Diet to Manage IBS
A healthy diet alone may not improve IBS so you will need to more specific when it comes to modifying your diet. Eliminating certain drinks and foods is a start.
Here are some diet changes that may help you manage symptoms:
Reduce the Intake of Certain Drinks
Caffeine is a stimulant and gets the colon moving, which may promote and worsen pain and diarrhea symptoms. Limit your caffeine, especially coffee, to no more than two cups per day.
Except for water, there are no healthy or safe ingredients in soda. Most are sweetened with fructose (fruit sugar) and fructose has been linked to abdominal distress, including cramping, bloating, spasms, and diarrhea — and not just in people with IBS.
Even diet sodas are bad options because they contain artificial sweeteners, which are known for causing gastrointestinal troubles. And sodas may contain caffeine and are also carbonated, which means more gas, bloating and other intestinal symptoms.
Alcohol in moderation may not trigger your IBS symptoms, but heavy drinking might.
A 2013 study found when women with IBS drank more than four alcoholic drinks daily, they were more likely to experience nausea, stomach pain and indigestion, compared to their counterparts who didn’t have IBS.
Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one glass per day and aim to have at least two to three alcohol-free days per week.
If possible, axe the caffeine, sodas and alcohol out all together and consider healthier options. Fruit juices without corn syrup, vegetable juices, decaffeinated coffees and teas, herbal teas, ginger drinks, and dairy-free milk (rice, soy, almond, or lactose-free) are all healthier alternatives.
Drink at least eight to 10 cups of water a day. Drinking plenty of water will help you replace lost fluids from diarrhea symptoms and also improve constipation.
Minimize Resistant Starch
There are some starches your gut will struggle to digest. This is because they reach the gut intact and are provoked by gut bacteria, causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Some foods that are resistant starches — bananas, beans, lentils, potatoes and whole grains — are actually ones we generally consider as part of a healthy diet. You can still eat them, but reducing them may help improve your IBS symptoms.
You should also stay away from foods containing resistant starches. These include processed foods (chips and cereals), precooked foods (pasta and potatoes), partially baked breads (frozen garlic bread), pastries, and dried pastas.
Consider Your Fiber Intake
For some people, reducing high-fiber foods can help improve IBS symptoms, but that is not the case for everyone.
You may want to adjust fiber intake based on your symptoms. Keeping a food and symptom diary can help you to determine which fiber rich foods worsen symptoms.
Generally, reducing insoluble fibers helps people manage their symptoms. These fibers are not dissolvable in water, do not easily break down and cannot pass through the digestive track intact. Examples of insoluble fiber foods are wheat and bran, corn, nuts and whole grains.
Soluble fibers are a better option. These fibers are dissolvable in water and broken down easily by natural bacteria in the bowel.
Soluble rich fiber foods soften stools and make them larger so consuming this type of fiber many minimize symptoms of constipation. Soluble rich fiber foods include oats, barley, fruits and vegetables, and beans.
Next page: more of the best foods for IBS — and the worst.