According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, between 25 and 45 million people in the United States suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While there is no cure for this condition, eating certain foods (and avoiding others) can help minimize symptoms. Choosing a diet for IBS relief can help you live a less interrupted life.
Various factors, such as gut sensitivity, digestive tract inflammation and unusual bowel movements all contribute to IBS. Since there is such a close relationship between food and IBS, many patients have found that changing their diet decreased symptoms and improved their quality of life.
Of course, it’s important to talk with your doctor before switching your diet. While there are general guidelines and specific food recommendations for many diagnoses, nutrition is a form of treatment that should be tailored to you.
Choosing a Diet for IBS Relief
Eating and avoiding certain foods can help stabilize bowel movements, decrease bloating and ease cramps.
Here are the most common food groups to consider when dealing with IBS:
Fiber is an important part of any diet, but insoluble fibers can cause bloating and diarrhea, which is why your diet for IBS relief should focus more on soluble fibers. Some great soluble fibers include:
- Beans (black, navy, kidney)
- Soy (tofu, edamame)
- Root vegetables (carrots, asparagus, celery)
- Fruits with skin (nectarines, pears, peaches)
Whole grains tend to contain a lot of insoluble fiber, which can be the root of your IBS-related pain; however, many people with IBS also suffer from Celiac Disease (or gluten-intolerant). This autoimmune disorder causes damage to the small intestine, which prevents nutrients from being properly absorbed.
Luckily, there are an abundance of delicious gluten-free options and substitutes that will make you forget about gluten!
Dairy products can also be a trigger for those living with IBS. This is sometimes due to the high content of fat dairy products have, which can aggravate diarrhea. Similar to gluten intolerance, many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant and do not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose.
If you suspect that dairy worsens your IBS symptoms, try an elimination diet and keep a food diary to monitor any changes.
Whether it’s coffee, soda or caffeinated tea, caffeine can cause diarrhea and gas due to its stimulating effect on the intestines. Many people living with IBS have to eliminate caffeine from their diets as it is too harsh on their digestive tract.
If you’re looking to cut caffeine out of your diets, here are some tips.
The FODMAP Diet
This popular IBS-friendly diet focuses on reducing and/or eliminating fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates that are not absorbed well by the small intestine. Specifically, it focuses on the following:
- Monosaccharides and
If you’re trying out the FODMAP diet, you should limit the following:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Added fiber
- Chickpeas, lentils
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage)
Additional Therapeutic Treatments for IBS Relief
Besides changing your diet for IBS relief, there are other therapeutic remedies that can help you better manage this condition.
Non-caffeinated teas are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other goodies to help keep you happy and healthy. Certain teas are especially great for calming your digestive tract:
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Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using acupuncture for centuries to relieve an array of health conditions, including digestive issues. Specifically, acupuncture can help remove dampness and heat by targeting certain points along the meridians of the large intestine and stomach. This has been shown to relieve IBS symptoms, strengthen the immune system, and alleviate stress, preventing further flare ups.
Movement in general is important in IBS patients, which includes regular exercise, stretching and abdominal massages. If you’re experiencing IBS-related pain and discomfort, try this massage to help loosen up the intestines and alleviate gas.
Massages are also stress-relieving (as well as acupuncture!), which is great for IBS patients since stress and anxiety can oftentimes exacerbate symptoms.
While there is no known cure for IBS, there are a lot of simple lifestyles changes you can make to manage the condition. Talk to your doctor to determine the best diet for IBS, as well as any supporting treatments that can help keep your symptoms at bay.
At Blue Creek, we get to know our patients before beginning treatment so that we can help heal and support the whole you. See how our services can help you today!