April is IBS Awareness month, and if you’re one of the 15 percent of the population suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), then you might be a little relieved to know that changes to your diet may help alleviate some of the painful symptoms.
IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine, causing symptoms that include constipation, diarrhea, cramping, gas, abdominal pain, and bloating. While the exact cause of IBS is unknown, for most people, its symptoms can be managed by proper diet, exercise, medicine and stress management.
How does diet affect IBS?
For many IBS sufferers, eating triggers symptoms. By making adjustments to your diet, you can better manage these painful symptoms. For example, if constipation is a problem, then drinking more water and incorporating more fiber into your diet may help alleviate that symptom. Or if diarrhea is the culprit, then limiting or avoiding certain “problem foods” may help.
When it comes to IBS, though, you must think long-term and gradual. Making dietary changes like incorporating more fiber and avoiding “problem foods” will not alleviate symptoms if only done temporarily. You must be consistent and persistent if you want to experience relief.
It’s also important to gradually add more fiber to your diet over the course of several weeks rather than all at once. A rapid increase can make gas and bloating much worse. Instead, steadily add more fiber slowly into your diet and pay attention to how your body responds. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. You should aim for 20 grams of fiber a day.
What kinds of foods should you avoid if you suspect you might have IBS?
Foods do not cause IBS. However, eating certain foods may trigger flare-ups. If you have IBS, keeping a food journal of everything you ingest–both food and drink–can help you pinpoint “problem foods” that may exacerbate IBS symptoms.
Some known “problem foods” include the following:
- Cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower)
- Spicy foods
- High-fat foods
- Anything with caffeine, carbonation, or artificial sweeteners.
To improve IBS symptoms, you should avoid these foods.
What foods should you eat to help alleviate symptoms of IBS?
IBS affects each person differently: some people experience constipation while others have diarrhea.The foods you choose to eat will depend on your unique situation. For example, while eating high-fiber foods may help alleviate constipation, they also cause gas. If that’s a problem for you, then you may want to lay off the beans and opt for a gentler fiber supplement.
Still, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of colorful foods. Some recommended foods for IBS sufferers include the following:
- Lactose-free or reduced-lactose dairy products
- Lean meats, fish, and poultry
- Salad vegetables
- Berries and citrus fruits
- Potatoes, rice, oats, and corn
- Plant-based oils (Source: WebMD).
Diet is just one way IBS sufferers can take a proactive role in improving their symptoms. The key is figuring out the “problem foods” and eliminating or finding healthier substitutes for them in your diet. With your diet under control, now you can identify other ways to treat your IBS symptoms including regular exercise, relaxation techniques, probiotics, and, if necessary, antispasmodic drugs.
(Source: Mayo Clinic)