Managing IBS with Diet. Canadian dietitian Lauren Renlund explains
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common digestive disorder. There’s no cure for IBS, but it’s possible to learn how to manage symptoms and get back to feeling good. Food is an essential component of digestion, so it makes sense that diet plays a major role in managing IBS symptoms.
Food and IBS
You can find lots of information online about food and IBS. It can be challenging to tell fact from fiction. A dietitian who specializes in IBS can help you make a dietary plan to manage symptoms.
There are some simple dietary changes that might make a significant difference in IBS symptoms. It’s often recommended to try some small changes before doing a major diet overhaul. Here are some top food tips that are commonly recommended by dietitians.
Pay Attention to How you Eat
How you eat can be just as important as what you eat. Eating regular meals spread throughout the day instead of only one large meal may help. Small snacks can also be included between meals.
Take time to eat slowly and mindfully. Turn off screens and avoid distractions so you can focus on your food. Chew your food well before swallowing. After all, digestion starts in the mouth.
Swallow Less Air
Carbonated drinks, such as pop and beer, cause us to swallow air. Any air you swallow will only have two options: come back up as a burp or travel the whole journey through the intestines and out the other end. Avoiding fizzy drinks can help to decrease gas and bloating.
Avoid Gut Stimulants
Caffeine and alcohol are gut stimulants and common symptom triggers, especially if you experience diarrhea. In addition, very spicy foods may worsen IBS symptoms.
Fibre is a very important nutrient for gut health. If you experience constipation and currently have a low fibre intake, eating more fibre-rich foods may help. Fibre is found in whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Juices do not contain fibre, so it’s better to eat the whole fruit or vegetable.
If you make a goal to eat more fibre, it is essential to increase your intake slowly. Suddenly eating way more fibre can cause cramping. Take it slow by adding one extra high fibre food a day.
Stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 cups of water or other fluids per day. Drinking water is especially important when increasing fibre intake.
Water is best for hydration. Tea and coffee also count toward your daily fluid intake.
If you ever find yourself wondering if you are dehydrated, take a look at the colour of your urine. It should be clear or pale yellow. If it’s yellow or dark yellow that’s a sign to drink more fluids.
If you experience diarrhea, sugar alcohols can make it even worse. Sugar alcohols are actually a type of artificial sweetener, not an alcoholic drink. Common sugar alcohols are sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol and isomalt. They are frequently found in low sugar candies and gums.
Sometimes small dietary changes can get IBS symptoms under control. Other times, these changes might not be enough. The Low FODMAP Diet is typically the next dietary change to try.
The Low FODMAP Diet is a medical diet designed to help people with IBS identify which foods trigger symptoms. Researchers have found that it can help three out of four people with IBS. It takes some time and effort, but it can make a huge difference in how you feel. Consider enlisting the help of an experienced FODMAP dietitian to support you along the way.