Irritable bowel syndrome, often abbreviated as IBS, refers to a number of gastrointestinal manifestations that can occur on a long-term basis (chronic condition). One may experience diarrhea or constipation, as well as abdominal pain, bloating and cramps. Medication can alleviate discomfort, but it’s crucial to recognize that the condition can be effectively managed through a tailored diet.
Overview of IBS
IBS is a chronic condition involving the small intestine. The condition can range from mild to severe, sometimes interfering with everyday activities. Despite the severity, the condition does not present an increased risk of cancer. Medical professionals recommend medication and counseling for IBS, along with stress-relief techniques and dietary restrictions.
What are the signs and symptoms of IBS?
Even though the signs and symptoms of IBS might vary, there are some general ones to be on the lookout for. As mentioned, individuals may experience cramps and abdominal pain, and these symptoms can alleviate or reduce in intensity following a bowel movement. Additional symptoms include bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and modified stools (presence of excess mucus) (R).
What are the causes of IBS?
The exact cause behind the appearance of the IBS has yet to be found. However, sufferers diagnosed with this condition might present a number of causative factors. These include abnormal intestinal muscle and nerve function, inflammation in the small intestine, and bacterial or viral infections. Additionally, changes in gut microflora, such as a reduction in the population of beneficial bacteria, can contribute to these issues.
Flare-ups (due to triggers) and risk factors
A flare-up occurs when IBS symptoms worsen, and it can be triggered by food allergies such as wheat and dairy. Identifying and managing these triggers is crucial for symptom control. Certain foods, such as those that ferment or have a lot of acids can cause similar problems. Other potential triggers include stress and hormonal fluctuations (especially with menstruation).
There are a number of risk factors to take into consideration as well. The symptoms of female patients experience is related to age, gender, family history, and mental health issues.
Women under the age of 50 tend to receive a diagnosis of IBS more frequently, particularly if they have a family history or pre-existing conditions like depression or generalized anxiety disorder.
Why it is important to address the manifestations of IBS?
Left untreated, irritable bowel syndrome can have a negative influence on the overall quality of life. It leads to mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, which in turn will make the condition even more severe. Among the recommended solutions, are psychotherapy, counseling, biofeedback, progressive relaxation exercises, and mindfulness.
Medication can relieve the symptoms of IBS. The physician might prescribe fiber supplements, laxatives, anti-diarrheal drugs, anticholinergic medication, tricyclic antidepressants, colon relaxants, antibiotics, etc. It is important to follow the treatment as instructed, without making adjustments on your own.
The Top IBS Diets – the key to feeling better
Specific diet changes can help relieve the symptoms of IBS, allowing one to feel better overall. When it comes to establishing a diet for IBS, there are a number of things to take into consideration. First and foremost, you have to keep track of the foods that trigger your symptoms.
This can be easily achieved with the help of the CareClinic health app (more information below). You should also pay attention to your fiber intake and drink more water, as dehydration can make the manifestations of IBS worse (R).
Type of diets recommended for IBS sufferers
You should select a diet plan based on your specific symptoms, as not every diet is suitable for individuals with IBS. This is particularly important because some people may experience constipation, while others may have diarrhea or a combination of both.
The high-fiber diet can help in case of constipation, as fiber is known to facilitate intestinal transit. The recommended intake of fiber varies between 25 and 30 grams per day, but most people do not exceed 15 grams. Fiber-rich foods include fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains.
In the situation that you experience bloating from the increased fiber intake, you can concentrate on soluble fiber.These nutrients are present in fruits and vegetables but are absent in whole grains, making them essential components of the IBS-C diet. You can enjoy a wide array of delicious recipes using these food categories, ensuring you don’t feel limited in your choices. (R).
For people who frequently experience bloating and diarrhea, the high-fiber diet is not a solution. The IBS-D diet is based on reduced intake of fiber, and especially of the ones that are soluble (they dissolve in water, no extra bulk to the stool).
For the IBS diarrhea diet, consider sources of soluble fiber like black beans, avocados, pears, and oats. To manage diarrhea risk, medications can help with high-fiber meals, but avoid over-reliance for long-term health.
No Gluten IBS Diet
A gluten-free diet can help improve the symptoms of IBS, at least for some people. Gluten actually refers to a family of proteins found in grain-based products, such as bread and pasta.Modern research has found a connection between gluten intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome; for this reason, you might want to consider eliminating gluten from your diet.
A straightforward method to determine if gluten is causing your symptoms is to remove it from your daily meals. You have to pay attention to all sources of gluten, including barley, rye, and wheat, carefully reading the labels of all packaged products. If you are a fan of bread and/or pasta, do not despair, as there are plenty of gluten-free options available (R).
The Elimination Diet
This is perhaps the easiest way to determine which foods lead to specific IBS symptoms. Upon starting the elimination diet, you will have to eliminate suspected foods for a certain amount of time. In general, it is recommended to pursue this approach for at least 12 weeks, trying to notice a difference in your symptoms.
As the majority of us follow a varied diet, it can be difficult to identify potentially harmful foods from the daily diet list. It might help to look for sources of insoluble fiber, such as whole grains, beans, and legumes, certain fruits and veggies. Other foods & beverages that can pose a problem include nuts, chocolate, and coffee.
You might not know this for a fact but the constant intake of high-fat foods, and especially in copious amounts, increases the risk of IBS and poses additional health risks (obesity for example). As this diet has a low content in fiber, it can lead to constipation and other manifestations characteristic for irritable bowel syndrome.
Fatty foods should not be part of the daily menu, especially if you frequently experience alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhea. On the other hand, by reducing the fat intake, you will not only improve the symptoms of IBS but lose weight and ensure cardiovascular health at the same time. As part of your low-fat diet, you should consume lean meat, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables, as well as grains (R).
Low FODMAP Diet
FODMAP is an acronym, which stands for “fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols”. These are actually carbs, which can cause damage to the intestines and lead to specific IBS symptoms. Upon consuming foods that contain these carbs, one is more likely to suffer from bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.
If you have decided to try the FODMAP diet for IBS, you should restrict the foods containing such carbs for at least six to eight weeks. What types of foods should you avoid?
First, you have to pay attention to all sources of lactose, such as yogurt, milk, ice cream, and cheese. Opt for the lactose-free versions instead, as supermarket shelves are filled with such opportunities nowadays (R).
You should also refrain from consuming certain fruits, such as nectarines, plums, mangoes, watermelon, and peaches. Vegetables, such as mushrooms, artichokes, broccoli, onions, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are a no as well. Nuts (pistachios and cashews in particular), high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, legumes and wheat-based products (pasta, bread, and cereals) complete the list.
Note: this is also known as the vegan diet for IBS, so you organize your diet sheet accordingly.
Keto Diet & Paleo Diets
Initially developed for children with epilepsy, the keto diet has gained popularity for weight loss due to its low-carb foundation. This diet entails consuming substantial amounts of fat and protein and should be considered only under the guidance of a nutritionist or physician.
Moreover, some experts have proposed that the keto diet’s reduced carb intake may offer potential benefits for individuals dealing with irritable bowel syndrome, particularly those with IBS-D. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to explore the suitability of this dietary approach for your specific health needs.
However, only a trained professional can determine whether this is a suitable choice for you or not.
The Paleo diet is based on the idea that we should eat what our ancestors ate (in the hunting and gathering period), as they did not suffer from any of the modern diseases (associated with the modern diet). Individuals following this diet can consume fruits and non-starchy vegetables, along with healthy fats and meat. However, it excludes dairy, grains, legumes, vegetable oils, processed foods, and refined sugar.
While this dietary approach isn’t a primary recommendation for IBS, reducing overall grain intake may offer some potential benefits. It forces one to turn away from the modern diet, improving the health of the gut microflora. As with the keto diet, only a trained nutritionist or doctor can recommend a particular dietary approach (R).
Keep track of the IBS diet with the CareClinic health app
The CareClinic health app assists in monitoring your IBS diet. It helps identify helpful and aggravating foods. You can input your diet plan and maintain a cheat sheet for healthy eating.
Remember, a healthy diet benefits not only IBS but also conditions like GERD and diverticulosis. Consult your doctor for a tailored diet and use the app to track dietary changes. Remember, a bland diet might not be enough to improve your health, you need to make specific adjustments.
If you would like to get started tracking your diet or the symptoms of IBS, click here to get started using CareClinic’s app.