IBS can play havoc with your digestive system. It’s time you eliminated and/or added certain foods to your diet to live a healthy, comfortable life. Choose wisely, live happy!
A nutritious, wholesome diet comprises a wide variety of nourishing foods. However, certain foods generate painful digestive symptoms in those dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While it’s nearly impossible to list out all the foods that a person suffering from IBS has to avoid, precise foods that initiate IBS keep varying for people. However, most people realize that the outcome of sidestepping very common triggers like fried foods, dairy and alcohol, ensures less cramps, reduced bloating and more consistent bowel movements.
Here’s a list of foods that could make your IBS worse:
Chocolate triggers IBS because it is high in fat and sugar, and generally contains lactose and caffeine. While vegan chocolate options are less discomfiting for people with IBS, some experience constipation after eating chocolate.
Dairy generally plays havoc in people with IBS. Many types of dairy are high in fat, which leads to diarrhoea. Moving to low fat or non-fat dairy may reduce your symptoms. Dairy alternatives like plant based milk—-almond milk, macadamia milk and rice milks are good alternatives too.
You can also do away with dairy and make the effort to consume other calcium-rich foods like:
- nuts and seeds
- greens and beans
- sardines and salmon
Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains including rye, wheat and barley which might cause discomfort for people with IBS. Research suggests that a gluten-free diet can improve IBS symptoms. Since several gluten-free products like pizza, pasta, cakes and cookies are available today; you no longer have to do entirely without these foods if you enjoy them— just remember processed, gluten free foods should be limited. Also, today, there are many whole, nutritious alternatives to gluten-containing grains and flours. Chief among them are:
- Overnight oats
- Less than 1/4 cup of almond flour
- Rice flour
- Teff flour
- Arrowroot flour
- Green banana flour
Fried foods like French fries and other goodies are common in our diets. But the high fat content impacts people with IBS as frying food changes the chemical composition of food, making it difficult to digest. Air frying your own potatoes or trying out parsnip fries or grilling and baking are healthier cooking styles, so try them!
Coffee, sodas and energy drinks containing caffeine can trigger IBS symptoms. Hence, they are best avoided. But if you are looking for an energy boost, have a small snack or indulge in light exercise/ a quick run or walk.
Legumes & Beans
Beans, lentils and peas are a great source of protein and fiber, but they can cause IBS symptoms as they contain compounds called oligosaccharides which are not digested by us but are ratherfood for our gut microbes. As the gut bugs feast the product of their fermentation can increase gas, pain and bloating.
Beans, despite increasing bulk in stools and helping constipation, can also increase cramps, gas and bloating. If you find beans aggravate your symptoms, try soaking them overnight and rinse thoroughly before cooking to make them easily digestible.If they are still a problem for you, best to avoid the higher FODMAP ones
Sugar-free sweeteners – found in diet drinks and sugarless candy and gum – are detrimental to your IBS health.
Commonly used sugar substitutes include:
- sugar alcohols
- artificial sweeteners
- natural zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia
Artificial sweeteners, which can have negative effects on health, can contain ingredients like sucralose, acesulfame potassium and aspartame. Research shows that sugar alcohols, especially hard for the body to absorb in people with IBS, cause digestive discomfort, gas and laxative effects. Sorbitol and mannitol are sugar alcohols that cause IBS symptoms. Avoid these compounds by reading the ingredient labels of any sugar-free products before buying them.
Alcohol is a common trigger for people with IBS because of the way the body digests alcohol. Alcohol can also lead to dehydration, which affects digestion. While beer is risky as it could contain gluten, wines and spirits can contain high amounts of sugar. So, lower alcohol to reduce IBS symptoms. Else, choose a gluten-free beer or a drink mixed with plain seltzer and without artificial sweeteners/ added sugar to help you.
Processed foods contain large quantities of salt, sugar and fat which interfere with digestion. That’s why processed meats, deep-fried foods, chips and premade frozen meals are a no-no for IBS sufferers especially. Buying fresh produce and cooking meals at home is a healthy alternative to processed foods.
Cauliflower & Broccoli
Cauliflower and broccoliare difficult to digest and may trigger IBS symptoms. Gas and constipation, even for people without IBS, are common occurrences. Cooking these vegetables makes them easier to digest. Lightly roast or sauté them if you want them to feel less cooked and retain their crunch. If you are sensitive to foods high in mannitol— you may have to avoid cauliflower altogether.
Garlic & Onions
Garlic and onions are fabulous food flavouring agents, but difficult for your intestines to break down, potentially causing painful gas and cramping. While raw garlic and onions are most know for triggering IBS symptoms, the cooked version too can impact your gut. Try a garlic infused olive oil if you are missing the flavour of garlic in your cooking.
Suffering from IBS? Eat this…
Doctors recommend that people with IBS work with the low FODMAP (fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates) diet. It involves limiting foods rich in certain types of carbohydrates, figuring out your triggers and personalizing it to you.
According to Harvard Medical School, the small intestine cannot absorb foods that contain FODMAPs easily. This causes gas, bloating and stomach pain.
- Dairy products
- Fruits like mango, apples and cherries
- Vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, lentils and beans
- Rye and wheat
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol
But all is not lost! You can still enjoy low FODMAP foods like:
- Fruits like pineapple, bananas, oranges, clementines, 3/4 cup of cantelope, 1/4 cup of blueberries, papaya and kiwi
- Vegetables like potato, carrots, kale, eggplant, green beans, spinach, pumpkin, parsnips, rutabaga, tomatillos, swiss chard, arugula, collards, lettuces, endives, kohlrabi, oyster mushrooms, olives and spaghetti squashe
- Rice, quinoa, millet and cornmeal
- Tofu (firm and medium)
- Seeds like pumpkin, sesame and sunflower
- Meat and fish
- Oils and butter
- Hard cheeses
- Lactose-free dairy products
Take control of your life and beat IBS… here’s how!
– Become familiar with your body, understand which foods help you feel great and
edge out those that make you feel ill.
– Keep a food and symptom diary to ascertain what to eat and avoid.
– Visit a Monash Certified registered dietician to help you cope with IBS.