Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
151 Case Studies
100 Member Stories
1539 Research

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disease that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you will want to handle long term. Only a few of people with IBS have acute signs and symptoms. Some people can control their symptoms by managing lifestyle, diet and stress. More-severe symptoms can be treated with medication and counselling.

IBS does not cause changes in gut tissue or raise your risk of colorectal cancer.

The signs and symptoms of IBS vary. The most common include:

Abdominal pain, bloating or cramping which is typically relieved or partly relieved by passing a bowel motion

Excess gas

Diarrhea

Constipation

Mucus in the stool

Most people with IBS experience times once the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.

How can Diet therapy treat IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Women are more commonly affected than men, and people are likely to get this disease in their late teens to their early 40s. IBS is a type of gastrointestinal disorder that causes abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, increased gas, bloating, cramping, and food intolerance.[1 ]

The exact cause of IBS is not known, but it is believed that IBS can be triggered due to eating certain types of foods. 

IBS is typically known as being a 'functional' disorder. This means that any changes in the functioning of the digestive system can result in triggering the symptoms of IBS. This basically means that the syndrome is a problem that is associated with the movement of the digestive system, rather than being associated with any damage to the tissues of the digestive system. 

What you eat and how you eat is, therefore known to have a profound effect on the symptoms of IBS. As it is never possible to prevent all the IBS symptoms,  you may find that following a healthy gut diet plan may prevent the symptoms from being triggered. 


You can see Shana Spence, RD explain how diet therapy may help IBS here.



IBS Foods to Avoid

Avoiding the following foods may help IBS:

1. Insoluble Fibre

The first IBS foods to avoid is insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre is known to either cause or worsens diarrhoea in many people with IBS. You should make an effort to focus on soluble fibre instead. However, keep in mind that if you suffer from constipation, then having insoluble fibre will help relieve constipation, but at the same time, it will make you feel very bloated.[2] 

Foods that are good to include in an irritable bowel syndrome diet are those with soluble fibre, such as:

Legumes like peas

Root vegetables such as parsnips and carrots

Grains such as barley and oatmeal

Fruits such as mangoes, berries, grapefruit, and oranges

2. Gluten

An IBS diet should avoid foods that have gluten. Gluten is a type of protein that many people are allergic to. An allergy to gluten is known as celiac disease, and it also produces many of the same symptoms as IBS. 

Many people who have gluten intolerance find their IBS symptoms worsening upon having gluten-containing foods. In fact, some studies have also shown that gluten sensitivity might actually be the reason behind the development of IBS symptoms in the first place.[3]  Similarly, a gluten-free diet has been known to improve IBS symptoms. 

The good news is that there are many gluten-free products available in the market today, so you can always substitute your favourite food with a gluten-free version.  

3. Dairy products

Dairy should not be a part of any irritable bowel diet. There are two major reasons as to why dairy is best avoided if you have IBS. The first reason is that it contains fat, which is going to worsen your diarrhoea. If you want to still have dairy, then you should opt for having non-fat or low-fat options to reduce your symptoms. 

The second reason is that many people with IBS are usually lactose intolerant.[4]  If you have IBS and are lactose intolerant, you should consider choosing dairy alternatives such as soy cheese and rice milk. 

If you want to cut our dairy altogether from your IBS diet, then you should ask your doctor to prescribe a calcium supplement for you.

What are best foods for IBS?

These foods should be part of your IBS diet plan:

1. FODMAP for IBS

If you are looking for some good foods for IBS, then following the FODMAP diet will prove to be beneficial for your symptoms. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. FODMAP diet for IBS focuses on eliminating or reducing the intake of fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates from your diet.

Several research studies [5] have shown that high FODMAP foods do not get adequately absorbed by the small intestine. Furthermore, these foods increase the level of fluid in the bowel, creating more gas that causes pain, and diarrhoea.

Foods that are good for IBS and part of the FODMAP diet include:

Cheeses such as brie and feta

Lactose-free milk or any other dairy-free alternatives

Proteins such as chicken, beef, fish, and tofu

Vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, bok choy, potatoes, eggplant, and turnips

Fruits such as honeydew melon, strawberries, cantaloupe, and kiwi

2. Eggs

Eggs are easily digested, which makes them a safe choice for people with IBS. Eggs are an excellent choice to include in your irritable bowel syndrome diet - you can have it hard or soft boiled, poached, or scrambled. However, if you have a sensitivity to egg whites, then you should avoid having them.

3. Lean meats

Lean meats can also be a good inclusion in your IBS diet. They are primarily made up of protein and protein is easily digested by your stomach. Proteins are also not fermentable by the gut bacteria, which means that lean meat will not lead to any unwanted intestinal gas. Here are some lean meat options you can enjoy safely with IBS:

White meat chicken

Lean cuts of beef

Pork

White meat turkey


IBS Diet Suggestions

Here are some tips you can follow to get relief from your IBS symptoms:

Avoid eating raw vegetables and opt for having only cooked vegetables, except maybe cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage as these can cause gas. 

Try having fruits without their skin.

Many IBS patients find it beneficial to increase the amount of fibre in their diet. However, increase the fibre content slowly and also ensure that you have sufficient water. 

Bran fibre is best avoided as it is known to aggravate IBS symptoms. 

It has been seen that people with IBS can tolerate bread, pasta, bagels, rice, and crackers without any adverse reaction.

Many people with IBS have problems with sauced, heavily spiced, or fried foods.

Look for low-fat foods to enrich your IBS diet.


Scientific studies in Diet for IBS

This review summarizes the published clinical trials regarding the management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) using limitation of Fermentable Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide, Monosaccharide, and Polyols from the diet (low FODMAP diet).[6].  Lately, the information behind low FODMAP diet for the management of IBS symptoms have emerged, such as many randomized controlled trials, case-control studies, and other observational studies. Unlike most dietary manipulations attempted previously to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS, all studies on low FODMAP diet have always shown symptomatic benefits in the vast majority of patients with IBS. However, dietary adherence from the patients and apparent dietary intervention directed by technical dietitians seem to be vital for the success of their diet. As much as 86% of patients with IBS find improvement in general gastrointestinal disorders in addition to individual symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal distention, and flatulence after the diet. FODMAP limitation reduces the osmotic load and gas generation from the distal small intestine and the proximal colon, providing symptomatic relief in patients with IBS. Long-term health effects of a very low FODMAP diet aren't known; however, stringent FODMAP limitation isn't recommended owing to dangers of inadequate nutrient intake and possible adverse effects from altered gut microbiota. To conclude, the evidence to date strongly supports the effectiveness of a low FODMAP diet in treating IBS. Further studies need to understand any possible adverse effects of long-term limitation of FODMAPs.

Summary

It is essential to keep in mind that everyone has a different digestion process, and due to this, the food triggers for everyone also varies. While many people with IBS tolerate certain foods better, others might not be able to tolerate the same. It is best to spend some time with trial and error to find out which foods suit you the best. This is why keeping a food diary proves to be extremely helpful in determining your food triggers.  Getting to know your body and identifying which foods makes you feel good will go a long way in preventing your IBS symptoms. Food has a vital role to play in triggering the symptoms of IBS, so it is a good idea to seek guidance from a registered nutritionist or dietitian to come up with a customized diet plan.

References

1. Information, H., Diseases, D., (IBS), I., Syndrome, T., Center, T., & Health, N. (2019). Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome | NIDDK. Retrieved 3 September 2019, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/treatment

2. Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber: How to Know What’s Right for You if You Have IBS. (2019). Retrieved 3 September 2019, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/ibs/soluble-vs-insoluble-fiber-for-ibs.aspx

3. Will Going Gluten-Free Help Your IBS?. (2019). Retrieved 3 September 2019, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/ibs-and-gluten-sensitivity-1944840

4. Cold, F., Health, E., Disease, H., Disease, L., Management, P., & Conditions, S. et al. (2019). IBS or Lactose Intolerance: How Can You Tell?. Retrieved 3 September 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/ibs-or-lactose-intolerance

5. Publishing, H. (2019). Try a FODMAPs diet to manage irritable bowel syndrome - Harvard Health. Retrieved 3 September 2019, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/a-new-diet-to-manage-irritable-bowel-syndrome

6. Nanayakkara WS, Skidmore PM, O'Brien L, Wilkinson TJ, Gearry RB. Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating irritable bowel syndrome: the evidence to date. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2016;9:131–142. Published 2016 Jun 17. doi:10.2147/CEG.S86798


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