IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common term and may be on your mind if you have digestive problems. While the term sounds easy enough to understand (sensitive gut), the actual diagnosis is complex and not always easy to treat. Changes to the way you eat will be the best option for helping relieve common symptoms of irritable bowel including stomachache, bloating, off and on episodes of diarrhea and constipation, fatigue, depression, bad moods, irritability, and even anxiety.
If you have these symptoms of irritable bowel it is absolutely critical that you have a thorough medical evaluation to rule out serious disease like colon cancer. Early treatment of serious disease like cancer can make an enormous difference, so waste no time to get checked out.
Once you have been told you have IBS by a doctor, then you will need to take matters into your own hands and begin searching for the right diet for your individual body and your sensitive intestines. Health truly begins with the digestion so you must address this root matter.
Use a Natural Diet for IBS Symptoms
It is now commonly understood that certain foods are bad for a people with sensitive digestive systems and sensitive intestines. Foods that are bad for IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, and sensitive stomachs include:
- sweets- foods with added sugar, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup
- fried food- soaked in and heated to high temperatures in cheap, burnt oils
- preservatives- BHT, sodium benzoate, nitrate, etc…
- colorants- red, yellow, blue, and green food coloring (usually have a chemical number with the name)
- additives- words that you do not recognize as whole foods, added artificial flavorings, “natural flavoring”, chemical enhancers
- hydrogenated fats- modified fats like partially-hydrogenated soybean oil
- oils extracted with solvents- oils that are pulled from plants using harsh chemicals, safer oils will say “cold pressed”
- chemically processed foods- foods with added preservatives, colors, and artificial flavorings or colorings
- genetically modified organisms- altered plants sometimes made to tolerate extremely high pesticide loads
- chemical fertilizers & pesticides- heavily used on plants that are not labeled organic
Eat Organic for IBS Relief
It’s truly best for our health to eat organic and eat non-gmo. By selecting organic you decrease the amount of chemical pesticides you come into contact with.Pesticides can damage the healthy flora (gut microbes) and irritate your digestive tract. Also, chemical pesticides come with uncertain risks. What happens when we pump man-made chemical fertilizers into our bodies year after year? Only time will tell how bad this can be for our whole society. By choosing organic you support better farming practices like crop rotation where fields are allowed to rest and recover instead of forced to produce crop after crop.
Choose Non-GMO for Your Health
By choosing non-GMO you are avoiding crops that have been altered to tolerate more chemical pesticides. Round-up Ready seeds are one example of crops that have been altered to allow the grower to use more Roundup. Of course, not all GMO crops are treated with higher pesticides, but until more transparent practices are used by the farming industry it is easier to choose Non-GMO.
Eat a Light and Easy to Digest Food to Help IBS Symptoms
If you suffer from bloating, cramps, constipation, and diarrhea associated with IBS then a light and easy to digest diet will help you feel better. Some foods to avoid or cut back on if you have IBS include:
- Whole Grains
- Foods high in fructose like apples, watermelon, mango, artichoke, asparagus, etc…
- Foods that are known as hard to digest: onions, cauliflower, dairy (cows milk products)
- High fiber vegetables
- Pasta and boiled rice
- Nuts and seeds
- Foods high in FODMAPS (a specific type of carbohydrate), read more at Monash University’s Website.
As Dr. Perry worked to cure her tachycardia by reducing bloating she found that rice flour bread was a good alternative to other cereal foods as it was low in fiber and low in fermentable sugars. For fruits she found low fructose fruits were best like strawberries.
Easy to Digest Foods for IBS
- Baked or broiled fish or meat
- Roast potatoes
- Cooked lower fiber vegetables
- Lower fiber fruits
- Rice bread or rice crackers (not brown rice, not whole grain rice)
- Foods that you test and find agreeable. Read more about an elimination diet for food intolerance and IBS here.
The Fiber Problem
It is true that we need a certain amount of fiber for good digestion, especially in irritable bowel. However we have been taught by popular media to eat a lot of fiber. More fiber is better is not true. There have been times in recent years where people have been encouraged to consume as much as 40 grams of fiber a day. That advice may have lead to a lot of suffering by people with sensitive digestive systems and too much fiber can make IBS worse.
In Dr. Cataldi’s experience in 40 years of practice as a GI specialist he has learned that generally someone with IBS should not exceed 20 grams of fiber per day. If you are working to improve your IBS, try adjusting your fiber and monitor yourself for this special fiber number that works for your body. Finding the right Fiber Number for you will take experimentation.
Fruit versus Vegetables for IBS
Don’t assume fruit and vegetables are one category of food. If you find that a lower fiber diet is what your bowel needs remember there are some very low fiber fruits with high nutrient content. It’s harder to find low fiber vegetables. It’s a good idea to spend some time Googling the fiber content of foods when you are deciding what to eat. You will probably be surprised.
Fructose and other fermentable sugar is also something to consider with fruit and vegetables. Some are higher than others in difficult to process sugars.
Beans and other legumes like lentils are some of the highest fiber foods and also in fermentable sugars. Nuts are also high in fiber. As you seek out your perfect fiber formula for “Belly Harmony,” keep track of your fiber intake and monitor symptoms. Remember signs of poor digestion can take hours or even a day or more to make themselves know. Think back about 3 days to look at your patterns correctly.
REMEMBER: LEARNING TO EAT A DIET THAT WORKS FOR YOU IS THE MOST IMPORTANT WAY FOR IMPROVING YOUR HEALTH!