6 Diet Tips For Managing IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic intestinal disease causing bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and gas. A complex disorder, IBS can be a huge detriment to people’s quality of life when not managed properly. Thankfully, making some changes to your diet can help you control your IBS and ease your symptoms. Get your IBS under control with these tips I give my patients.
1. There isn’t just one diet for IBS.
IBS cases can vary in severity and in symptoms. A trigger food, or a food that causes gastrointestinal issues associated with IBS, may affect one patient but not another. That’s why there isn’t just one type of diet for IBS patients. Rather, I always recommend that patients work with their doctors to find a high-fiber, low-fat healthy diet that manages their IBS symptoms without becoming too restrictive. This is a good starting point to identify specific foods that might negatively affect your gut more than others.
2. Find your trigger foods.
For some patients, keeping a food journal is an effective way to single out foods that cause uncomfortable bowel movements and other symptoms of IBS like diarrhea or constipation. Try eliminating these foods for a period of time to see if symptoms improve. Cutting out these foods may not prevent every IBS episode from occurring, but this method can keep your IBS more manageable and thus improve your quality of life while living with this chronic illness.
3. Adding more fiber can ease symptoms.
For IBS patients that struggle with constipation and diarrhea, adding more fiber to your diet can help aid bowel movements by adding bulk to your stools. Fruits, vegetables and grains are high in fiber and low in fat and are generally good ways to add healthy fiber to your diet. Fatty foods usually make IBS symptoms worse, so choosing vegetables over fatty foods is a good place to start when managing your IBS.
4. Try focusing on soluble fibers if a high fiber diet isn’t working.
If you still experience gastrointestinal problems on a high-fiber diet, try getting your fiber intake by eating more soluble fibers like berries, carrots, apples and oatmeal. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and don’t add as much bulk to your system as insoluble fibers, like broccoli, breads, whole grains and cabbage. This may help reduce bloating and gas associated with IBS.
5. Avoiding FODMAPs can help.
FODMAPs refer to carbohydrate compounds found in certain foods that can ferment in your intestine if digested poorly and cause gastrointestinal issues like pain, cramping, gas, bloating and diarrhea. New research has led doctors to recommend FODMAP diets, or plans that eliminate the foods with these compounds for certain periods of time. Foods high in FODMAPs include onions, legumes, apples, mangos, wheat, and dairy products. Foods low in FODMAPs include carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, oranges, grapes, and many gluten-free items. Talk to your doctor about going on a FODMAP diet if you think it may help your symptoms.
6. Drink lots of water.
Drinking a lot of water throughout the day can help your digestive system process food well. For IBS patients, water is especially important for healthy bowel functioning. Proper hydration is a critical part of good digestion.
Treating IBS is difficult, but by making healthy food choices and following your doctor’s orders, you can get your condition under control.
THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.
Paul Milner, MD, is a gastroenterologist practicing in Flowood, MS. View his Healthgrades profile >
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