The average person suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) experiences diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence, and recurring abdominal pain. Life revolves around diet issues which can lead to depression or anxiety which leads to even more dietary issues. Break the cycle with the these simple dietary changes for IBS.
Dietary Modification for IBS
Since IBS is a condition defined by its symptoms, there’s no specific diagnosis. Making dietary modifications is perhaps the major step in helping IBS patients find symptom relief and controlling IBS long-term. It’s important to keep a diary, either written or electronic while experimenting with different dietary restrictions. Record what you eat and whether you have any symptoms after consuming those foods. An IBS diet plan is not one-size-fits-all, and what causes discomfort in one person may not cause symptoms in another.
Your IBS Diet Should Exclude Gas-Producing Foods
Foods that are difficult to digest result in excess gas production and that’s a serious problem for an IBS patient. Removing gas-producing foods from your diet can help you avoid IBS flare-ups and reduce symptoms. Exclude the following gas-producing foods from your diet:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green peppers
Keep in mind that carbonated drinks, such as sodas, are culprits in producing excess gas. Artificially sweetened foods are also big gas producers.
Lactose Avoidance - IBS Diet
Lactose is another huge gas trigger and may also cause nausea. When you’re on the IBS diet, you must avoid dairy products containing lactose, whether the item in question is milk, yogurt, cheese, or ice cream.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols.” The IBS diet is low in these food groups, which includes foods containing lactose (Disaccharides), fructose from fruits and vegetables (Mono-saccharines), and sugar alcohols (Polyols).
Following a low-FODMAP diet requires paying attention to every mouthful you eat. There’s a long list of foods to avoid, but if you’re on the low FODMAP diet, there are easy ways to remember what you can eat. When it comes to fruits, look to color, and choose colorful varieties such as bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and oranges. Low-FODMAP vegetables include carrots, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, and zucchini. Nuts are low-FODMAP foods, especially almonds, macadamia nuts, peanuts, and walnuts. And while lactose is excluded, including some lactose-free dairy products in the diet is crucial for meeting your body’s vitamin D and calcium needs.
How does a low-FODMAP diet help control IBS? Eating high-FODMAP foods increases the amount of liquid in the intestine, which in turn can lead to diarrhea. High FODMAP foods can also ferment and produce gas which can lead to discomfort and bloating
The IBS Diet Avoids Gluten
People with IBS are more likely than the general population to have celiac disease. This probably results from a genetic predisposition. When those with celiac disease consume any type of gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—their bodies respond with an autoimmune attack on the small intestine. Over time, this response damages the villi, the small projections found in the lining of the small intestine. Damaged villi cannot absorb nutrients efficiently. Since Celiac disease is genetic, if you have a close relative with the disease, your odds are much higher that you will develop this autoimmune response. The IBS diet removes all forms of gluten so as not to trigger this destructive response in susceptible IBS patients.
Even if someone with IBS does not have celiac disease per se, they may suffer from gluten sensitivity. In a study published in the March 2011 edition of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers conducted a double-blind study on 34 IBS patients who did not have celiac disease. Half of the group received gluten products for six weeks, while the other half received a placebo. Participants received either form in either one muffin or two slice of bread, and the rest of their diet was gluten-free. At the end of the six-week period, nearly 70% of those receiving the gluten products reported inadequate symptom control, while only 40% of those on the placebo felt their symptoms worsen.
Implement Fiber and Probiotics into Your IBS Diet Plan
Sufficient fiber intake can ease or prevent IBS symptoms, especially constipation. The best type of fiber for treating IBS is water-soluble psyllium, also known as ispaghula. Insoluble fiber, such as bran, is not as effective in IBS symptom relief. Daily consumption of 20 grams of psyllium in the diet can help improve symptoms and quality of life.
Probiotics are good bacteria that aid in maintaining gut health. A high-FODMAP diet lowers the level of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. Probiotic supplements, which are well tolerated by IBS patients, can restore some of the good flora in the gut and help relieve IBS symptoms in some patients.
IBS treatment requires a holistic approach. While an IBS diet is an important part of therapy, exercise is also essential. A study appearing in the May 2011 edition of the American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that physical activity improves the gastrointestinal symptoms relating to IBS. The study tracked 102 female IBS sufferers (women are more prone to IBS) and put them into two distinct groups. The first group was told by a physical therapist to increase their levels of physical activity, while the second control group was told to make no changes in their lifestyles. Researchers wanted to study the changes in the IBS severity scoring system in both groups. At the end of the study, the percentage of patients with high IBS severity scores was significantly larger in the control group than in the group engaging in more physical activity.
Exercise, combined with the IBS diet, can help free IBS sufferers from pain and allow them to have more symptom-free lives. If you believe you may have IBS, consult your doctor to discuss options like focusing on your health and wellness via diet and exercise. You can also enrich your diet with a probiotic, which can help relieve symptoms like bloating and cramping and aid in improving digestion via balancing the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
 Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar;106(3):508-14; quiz 515. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.487. Epub 2011 Jan 11. Gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in subjects without celiac disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial.