Irritable bowel syndrome, otherwise known as spastic colon, consists of chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, gas, bloating, and sometimes, a severe change in bowel habits. The individual suffering from this affliction may experience diarrhea or constipation, or even both at alternate times.
Of course, none of this is fun, and once you establish that you do indeed have irritable bowel syndrome, you begin to give serious consideration to what foods you can safely eat and which ones you should avoid. The problem is that no two bodies are alike, so there is no such thing as an IBS diet that will work for everyone. But don’t panic, because the situation is far from hopeless. Here’s what you can do.
How to Modify Your IBS Diet
When you read the above words you might frown and think that the task in front of you is going to be too hard, but it really isn’t that difficult. All it takes is a little time and patience, and some trial and error. You just need to go online to do a little reading, and learn some basic facts about how your body functions and what it needs to stay happy and healthy.
Now there are two IBS diets that seem to help, and they come highly recommended by the American College of Gastroenterology. Number one is a gluten-free diet; the other is the low-FODMAP diet.
What is a Gluten-Free IBS Diet?
It is not necessary to have celiac disease in order to live a gluten-free life. In fact, there have been quite a few IBS patients who have stated that their condition did indeed get better when they removed all gluten from their diet. While this is very good news, what remains as yet a mystery is whether the condition is caused by gluten itself, or the FODMAP fructan. Regardless, it is extremely important that you be tested for celiac disease before you attempt to start a gluten-free diet for IBS. This is so because there is a distinctly confusing overlap between IBS, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
If you don’t know what gluten is, don’t feel bad, there are plenty of people who don’t know as well. Gluten is found in many of the foods we eat such as: most cereals, breads and other baked goods, but what some people aren’t aware of is that it is also often used as a food additive covering a wide selection of foods.
IBS and Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is very serious condition which can be very damaging to your health. What it boils down to is that the eating of gluten leads to damage to the small intestine. In turn, this damage causes malabsorption of necessary nutrients, which can then be the cause of other serious health issues. The gastrointestinal symptoms of celiac disease closely resemble those of IBS:
. Abdominal pain
. Chronic diarrhea
All of the current research which has been done in reference to the risk of IBS patients having celiac disease has come up with an answer that is clear as mud. The answers range from claims that there is actually no greater risk to claims that those individuals with IBS are four to seven times more apt to have celiac disease than the average person. This is where the possible overlap comes in, and why existing medical management guidelines for IBS indicate that routine testing for celiac disease should be done for all alternating type IBS (IBS-A) and diarrhea predominant IBS (IBS-D) patients.
What is a Low-FODMAP Diet?
The low-FODMAP diet is currently the only known diet that has a great deal of research support for its ability to help ease the symptoms of IBS. When observed correctly, the diet should be adhered to under the supervision of a nutritionist to be certain that you are receiving adequate nutrition.
Also, keep in mind that some IBS patients may not have a problem with gluten, but may instead have a food allergy or sensitivity to other common foods, which requires a totally different irritable bowel syndrome diet.
The low-FODMAP diet was conceived by researchers in Australia as a new dietary method for controlling the symptoms of IBS. This method includes the restriction of foods that have certain carbohydrates in them, called FODMAPS, or Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols which are found in common, everyday foods. These are carbohydrates and sugar alcohols which have a difficult time being absorbed by the small intestine. The result is that they are then fermented by bacteria within the digestive system, in particular, the small intestine and the upper portions of the large intestine.
A low-FODMAP diet is not based on what causes IBS, but instead, it examines the effect that FODMAP-containing foods have in causing digestive symptoms in people who have visceral hypersensitivity and motility dysfunction. The same theory has been used to treat IBS and inflammatory bowel disease.
It doesn’t matter what your main IBS symptom is, it is still essential to your recovery to be certain that you have the best tools in your kit as you take the time and assess your lifestyle and the food you eat. If you wish to become knowledgeable about your own personal IBS diet, you must know how to keep a food diary and how to follow a diet plan. Sounds like fun, right? Well, here are some easy instructions to follow.
Eating With IBS
Just as no one’s body is exactly the same as anyone else’s, IBS symptoms can vary from each person who has the condition, however, there are some guidelines that can be applied to all.
It’s natural for IBS patients to be concerned about what to eat with IBS, but you should also be aware of how you eat because this can significantly better or worsen your symptoms. Just making a few easy changes can make all the difference.
IBS can really be an aggravating condition to have, because not only can symptoms be different from person to person, but they can also change from one day to the next in the same person. Here are some simple guidelines concerning food and eating to follow which should help:
How to eat when you have…
While there are certain foods which can help ease chronic diarrhea, it is also extremely important that you begin eating in a manner which does not make intestinal contractions more severe. This means eating small, low-fat meals throughout the day rather than three squares.
1. Stay Away From Large Meals
Rather than looking for certain trigger foods which caused the condition, simply do not eat large meals if at all possible. Big meals can add to the force of intestinal contractions, increase that sense of urgency, and, of course, produce diarrhea.
2. Eliminate Meals High in Fat
Meals with a high degree of fat in them, such as fried, creamy and greasy foods, can have the same results as large meals.
3. Eat Small Meals All Day Long
If your type of IBS is diarrhea-predominant, don’t make the mistake of not eating in order to stop diarrhea. Simply eat smaller meals spread out throughout the day. This gives your system better rhythm and helps to ensure that you won’t have that “starving” feeling and so eat a large meal for supper.
Eating properly for constipation involves doing exactly the opposite of what you should do to treat diarrhea. What it all boils down to is that now you want to eat in a manner which will give your intestinal contractions a helpful nudge. So begin by eating a big breakfast in the morning, you can even add a bit of dietary fat if you want to go a little further. If this still doesn’t help then:
1. Eat Regularly All Day
Because it is a fact that simply performing the act of eating can lead to intestinal contractions, it makes sense to eat something every few hours. By eating meals in a routine manner, you can help your system to begin moving more smoothly.
2. Consume More Fiber
What exactly is fiber? Well, fiber is best defined as the part of plant foods which can’t be digested. This provides the necessary bulk for regular bowel movements so it has an essential place in your IBS diet.
3. Drink Water
Drink eight oz. glasses of water every day. This will not only keep your body hydrated, it will also prevent water from being drawn out of the stool because your body needs it elsewhere, which causes the stool to harden.
Gas and Bloating
If your IBS manifests itself through gas and bloating, you should reexamine your eating habits along with exactly what you are consuming.
1. Eat Slowly
A leading cause of gas is swallowed air, so that’s why it’s important for you to make sure that you eat and drink slowly, that way you will take in less air. Gulping your food is out of the question.
2. Don’t Chew Gum
By chewing gum, you are just providing yourself with another way of swallowing air. Also, don’t eat hard candy.
3. Say No to Carbonated Beverages
What is the carbon dioxide which is found in all carbonated beverages? Gas! Don’t drink them.
4. Don’t Consume Sorbitol
Certain diets have sorbitol added to them, which is a sugar substitute. When intestinal bacteria combines with sorbital, intestinal gas is created.
5. Choose Food Wisely
Yes, it’s true, certain foods do make the problem of gas worse. Mainly these are foods that have substances within them which are not easily digested, and so the intestinal bacteria come into play again.