At Triborough GI we know that living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is frustrating, especially when it comes to mealtimes. You often can’t enjoy your meal because you’re so worried about whether your food choices will trigger an episode of bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, or constipation.
You’re not alone. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of people have IBS, which is twice as common in women, and it often goes undiagnosed. While the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, it’s clear that multiple factors – including the foods you eat – play a role in exacerbating symptoms. If you’re looking at diets to help relieve IBS symptoms, here’s some advice on foods that may be easier on your digestive system and foods to avoid with IBS.
Here are 15 Nutrition and Lifestyle Strategies for IBS
- Enjoy meals at regular times, chew well, and eat slowly. You may find it easier to digest and tolerate smaller portions of food vs. larger portions.
- Drink at least 8 cups (2 L) of fluid per day (e.g., water, herbal tea, broth) to stay hydrated.
- Try a short-term low FODMAP diet to help identify specific food triggers. FODMAPs are a group of specific carbohydrates that might trigger gut symptoms. High FODMAP foods include apples, onions, garlic, wheat, lactose, and sugar alcohol.
- Space fruit intake apart by 2-3 hours and stick to no more than one fruit portion per meal or snack.
- Choose cooked vegetables more often than raw, as cooked vegetables are easier to digest.
- Choose easier-to-digest proteins, such as eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, extra-firm tofu, and plain lactose-free Greek yogurt. Lower-fat cooking methods, such as baking, roasting, steaming, boiling, and sauteing, can also help you avoid uncomfortable symptoms.
- Consider adding in certain types of fiber if you are constipated, such as flaxseeds, oats, insulin, or psyllium. Avoid wheat bran and prunes, which are highly fermentable fibers that can trigger symptoms such as gas and abdominal pain.
- Limit gas-producing vegetables and legumes, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, chickpeas, lentils, and black beans, if they trigger symptoms for you.
- Limit coffee and strong caffeinated teas (black, green) to no more than 3 cups per day.
- Limit alcohol, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, and deep-fried, greasy foods (e.g., French fries, pizza, hamburgers, tempura).
- Limit sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, and erythritol, especially if you are experiencing diarrhea. Some foods naturally contain these, such as prunes, cauliflower, and mushrooms, (except oyster mushrooms) as well as sugar-free candies and gums.
- Consider a short-term trial of a daily probiotic for at least one month and monitor symptoms.
- Rule out gluten intolerance and celiac disease. It is possible for people to experience an intolerance to the carbohydrates in wheat (FODMAP) instead of the protein in wheat (gluten), which may be one reason why many people with suspected gluten intolerance tolerate 100% sourdough wheat bread (low FODMAP), but not regular wheat bread.
- Enjoy regular physical activity. This can help to reduce gas, bloating, stress, and anxiety, all of which can trigger gut symptoms. Talk to your doctor, kinesiologist, and/or physiotherapist about which level of physical activity is right for you.
- Manage stress and anxiety: The brain-gut connection is very strong and well-researched. You may notice worsened gut symptoms during times of increased stress and anxiety, which is a common response. Strategies to reduce stress could include walking in nature, listening to calm music, taking a nap, cooking, meditation, tai chi, yoga, writing, reading, massages, therapy, or anything else that you find helps you to relax. Some people may also want to seek out counseling from a professional and explore psychological therapies such as biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and gut-directed hypnotherapy.
Keep A Diet Journal For IBS Symptoms
Get to know your body. Record your food intake and symptoms for one week. Record when and how much you ate and drank. At the same time, record your IBS symptoms. Noting the onset, reaction, and severity of the symptoms will identify the “trigger” food that may not be kind to your gut.
After a few weeks of keeping the diary, you can get a better sense of which foods are unfriendly to your digestive tract, and begin creating a diet that is well-balanced and tailored to your needs. You may also want to consult with your doctor or a nutritionist to find out what foods are most likely to produce your IBS symptoms. Removing a food item from your personal menu doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding it altogether. It may mean cutting it out until the symptoms go away.
Find Your IBS Treatment Solution
IBS treatment focuses on addressing symptoms. In addition to diet changes, other lifestyle factors like stress and sleep quality can also affect the disorder. The good news is that you can often manage IBS through lifestyle adjustments.
Our gastroenterologist specializes in the digestive system, they can help determine what factors have the most significant impact on your gut health and the treatments that will help you feel better. Improve your quality of life with one of our doctors at Triborough GI today.