Smart Food Tips for Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Group of Multiethnic Hands Holding IBSLiving with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is unpleasant, to say the least. With symptoms that include cramping, gas, bloating, and constipation in some, and diarrhea in others, IBS can certainly impact your quality of life. As a result, sufferers are generally on the lookout for relief. The good news is that treatment often starts with something you can do at home: eating a sensible diet and avoiding foods that irritate your digestive system.

According to the American Gastroenterological Association, a “proper diet” can help control your IBS symptoms. “Proper” in this case includes avoiding eating large amounts at one time and avoiding or eating less of the foods that seem to cause a problem. Some people, for example, find that diary products or high-fat foods can trigger symptoms.[1]

A common dietary guideline for people suffering from IBS is to follow a diet known as FODMAP. This stands for “fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols,” or, more simply, certain types of carbohydrates found in foods that are hard to digest. By following FODMAP, also known as a low-FODMAP diet, you avoid or limit these particular carbohydrates. Some of the foods that contains FODAMPs include:[2]

  • Fruits such as apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, mango, nectarines, pears, plums, and watermelon, or juice containing any of these fruits
  • Canned fruit in natural fruit juice, or large quantities of fruit juice or dried fruit
  • Vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic and garlic salts, lentils, mushrooms, onions, and sugar snap or snow peas
  • Dairy products such as milk, milk products, soft cheeses, yogurt, custard, and ice cream
  • Wheat and rye products
  • Honey and foods with high-fructose corn syrup
  • Products, including candy and gum, with sweeteners ending in “–ol” (for example, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and maltitol).

If you’re living with IBS, it’s of course as important to know what to eat as it is to known what not to eat.  Foods that contain insoluble fiber—which is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains—can help ease IBS symptoms in some people. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools, helping them pass more quickly through the digestive system. More fiber, however, isn’t necessarily better: too much can cause gas and bloating, so aim to eat just enough high-fiber foods to keep bowel movements easy to pass and painless.

References:

[1] IBS: A Patient’s Guide to Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The American Gastroenterological Association. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome#Treatment. Accessed February 23, 2015.

[2] Eating, Diet, and Nutrition for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/irritable-bowel-syndrome/Pages/eating-diet-nutrition.aspx. Accessed February 23, 2015.