Although irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not caused by the food you eat, your symptoms may be worse when you eat certain foods. Modifying your diet for your specific needs may help reduce IBS symptoms.
Some popular diets may contain toxic levels of some nutrients or dangerously low levels of others. No diet is ever a good substitute for clinically proven drug therapies.
What does it involve?
Always consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
There is no one set of dietary recommendations that will provide the best results for every person with IBS. The best diet for you will depend on which foods trigger your symptoms, as well as your age, level of activity, and sex. For instance, those who exercise frequently may require more protein than those who do not, and women need to take in more iron-rich foods than men.
One of the best ways to pinpoint which foods are well tolerated and which produce the worst symptoms for you is to keep a food diary. Over several weeks, take note of what you eat and how you feel throughout the day. It will likely become apparent which foods are problematic and which are safe. You can also ask your dietitian or physician to review the diary in order to help distinguish patterns, identify problem foods, and determine whether your diet provides balanced nutrition. You may learn that you need to add a supplement for a nutrient which you are lacking.
A food diary is also an effective way to spot foods to which you may have allergies or intolerances. You can receive a skin-based allergy test to find out what foods you may be allergic too, but it may not tell the whole story about which foods cause which effects. An elimination diet combined with a food diary is a more direct and effective method. An elimination diet is a guided, progressive diet which begins by eliminating all foods you suspect as being problems, then gradually adds them back in while tracking your body’s reactions.
You can also be tested for lactose intolerance. If your problems with dairy are caused by lactose intolerance rather than by an allergy, you may be able to safely enjoy lactose-free varieties of dairy or take a lactase supplement when you eat dairy that will help lessen your reaction.
Many people with IBS find that following some general guidelines can help them reduce symptoms after eating. Eating smaller meals more frequently – five meals every three or four hours, for instance – can reduce post-meal symptoms. Focusing your diet on low-fat, high-carbohydrate food such as bread, rice, pasta, cereal, fruit, and vegetables may help minimize symptoms. Eating high-fiber foods such as whole grains, products containing bran, berries, beans, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens may reduce constipation, although they can also cause gas. Add fiber-rich foods gradually to get your body used to them.
Foods that trigger IBS symptoms differ from person to person. However, some of the most common triggers include caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, high-fat foods, milk products, artificial sweeteners, and gassy foods such as cabbage and beans. Some people with IBS obtain results with a diet low in a type of carbohydrates known as FODMAPs, short for “fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols.” Foods containing FODMAPS include wheat, some dairy, some fruits, and vegetables such as onions, broccoli, sprouts, and beets. However, the low-FODMAP diet can cause nutritional deficiencies and additional bowel problems if it is followed too stringently for too long.
Hydration is also important. If diarrhea is a common symptom of your IBS, it is very easy to become dehydrated, especially on hot days. Conversely, dehydration can lead to constipation. If you drink half an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day, you are probably drinking enough. For a 160-pound person, this would mean drinking 80 ounces, or 10 eight-ounce glasses of water, each day.
Several clinical studies have found the low-FODMAP diet to be beneficial to the majority of people with IBS.
You may feel disappointed to give up favorite foods. However, think of diet changes as a chance to explore unfamiliar foods and find new favorites.
IBS symptoms may make it harder to find the energy to prepare fresh, healthy meals instead of choosing processed options.
Depending on where you live, it may be harder to get to a grocery store with a good selection of produce and other healthy foods.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
IBS Diet: What to Do and What to Avoid – About IBS
Eating, Diet, and Nutrition for Irritable Bowel Syndrome – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
FODMAPS – IBS Network
Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating irritable bowel syndrome: the evidence to date. –
Journal of Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology