If you’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you’ve also probably been given lifestyle changes to make to accommodate for it. One of those accommodations, a serious one, is the diet. Irritable bowel syndrome is a fairly common problem, especially in women who have reached age 20, so we are way ahead in the ways of informing those who have it how to deal with it. A few simple changes with the foods you eat and the beverages you drink will make your life a whole lot easier if this condition affects you.
What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
IBS is a problem affecting the intestines; the intestines squeeze too hard or not hard enough, causing the food to move too quickly or too slowly through it. There are different names for the condition: functional bowel syndrome, irritable colon, spastic bowel, or spastic colon. Don’t get this condition confused with inflammatory diseases because they are not the same.
Symptoms include bloating and gas, mucus in the stool, diarrhea, constipation, feeling a strong urge to have a bowel movement, feeling like you need to have a bowel movement after you’ve already had one, abdominal pain, and cramping. The symptoms may be more magnified, depending on the time of day or if you’re under a lot of stress.
Speaking with a doctor is the only way to be officially diagnosed with IBS. The doctor will be able to make this judgment if your symptoms have formed a pattern over time. To be sure, the doctor will rule out other problems by performing a few tests, such as a colonoscopy or blood test.
This isn’t something that people die from. It may go away, and it may recur from time to time. Eating a diet that doesn’t put too much stress on the bowels is the base way to control it.
Things to know
Foods cannot cause irritable bowel syndrome; however, once you have it, there are some foods that may make it worse. Foods that do worsen the symptoms are things such as high fat foods, caffeine-containing foods and beverages, alcohol, and chocolate. Fat and caffeine both force the intestines to contract, causing cramping. For some people, gas may be a problem, so avoiding foods that cause gas—cabbage, beans, broccoli, some fruits, etc.—may be a good idea.
Foods for an IBS Diet
Saying that one diet will work for all people with IBS is a lie because everyone’s body is different; there is no “one size fits all.” Identifying your triggers over time is the best way to know what foods you should and shouldn’t eat. However, there is a generalized group of foods to avoid and those to eat; there are also some tips to keep in mind. Here are lists of all three.
Foods to avoid
These are also called trigger foods because they trigger the symptoms associated with IBS in the way they move through and affect the intestines. Red meat, dairy products, egg yolks, fried foods, high sugar foods, coconut milk, and the artificial sweeteners sorbitol and xylitol (used in sugarless gum and sugarless candies) should all be avoided. Eating a high fat diet will make the symptoms worse, but you don’t want to have a diet completely devoid of fat.
Foods to eat
This list is a lot more fun because it says what you can eat. It’s not quite as amazing to hear the foods you can’t eat, but hearing the foods you can eat…that’s a whole different story!
Fiber is probably the most beneficial thing you can eat to reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome because it improves how the intestines work. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps with both constipation and diarrhea; it dissolves in water, forming a gel-like material. Foods high in soluble fiber are rice cereals, oatmeal, pasta, tortillas, carrots, yams, potatoes, apples, beans, and citrus fruits. Insoluble fiber helps with constipation because it helps move material through the digestive system and adds bulk to the stool. Foods high in insoluble fiber are whole grains, wheat bran, seeds, nuts, and many vegetables.
Substitution. Since there are foods you can’t eat, and some of them are important, it is good to practice with substitution. Try substituting two egg whites for one whole egg, eat low fat vegetarian products instead of red meat, try fruit purees in place of oil when baking, use veggie broth in place of oil in sauces, and bake with cocoa powder (fat free) instead of using solid chocolate (high fat). Use plenty of herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of any dish.
In order to reduce constipation, eat plenty of fiber, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of exercise. It also helps to keep a log of the foods you eat daily; this makes it easier to track the foods that have triggered the symptoms of IBS. Lastly, eat in a place that has a quiet and relaxed atmosphere.