Best And Worst Foods For Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a fairly common and unpleasant digestive disorder that affects around 10 – 15% of the adult US population. The symptoms and severity vary from patient to patient. While anyone can potentially develop IBS, it’s been found to occur more often in women.

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Also referred to as irritable colon, spastic colon and nervous stomach, the most common telltale symptoms of IBS include chronically inconsistent bowel movements, excessive gas, bloating, cramps, constipation and / or diarrhea, and a difficulty in fully evacuating the bowel. It is not fully understood as to why this condition develops from the get go in some people and not in others. Extensive research and study findings show that several factors are to blame, such as heredity, an intolerance for certain foods that irritate the immune system, stomach and intestines, excessive and ongoing stress, depression and anxiety, and a severe viral infection in the digestive tract.

This condition is not life threatening, but it can have a significant impact on your life, is incurable, and can eventually lead to a number of health complications if left untreated. However, the good news is, with proper guidance, dietary change and prescription medication if necessary, you can reduce severity of symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Below are the best and worst foods for irritable bowel syndrome.

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Gluten - Free Foods

What to avoid: Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains including rye, wheat, and barley, which may cause problems for some people with IBS. Some people have a serious immune reaction to gluten, known as celiac disease. This condition and others share symptoms with diarrhea-predominant IBS. So pass on the pasta and regular bread.

What To Eat Instead: Research suggests that a gluten-free diet can improve IBS symptoms in around half of people with this condition, according to a 2015 study. Thus, some doctors recommend that people with IBS try cutting gluten out of their diet to see if their symptoms improve. If you do find that gluten makes your symptoms worse, then it’s time to switch to a gluten-free diet.

The good news is that more and more gluten-free products are quickly becoming available and easy to obtain at markets, such as gluten free pizza, pasta, cakes, or cookies. These products are made from a variety of whole, low carb and nutritious alternative flours, such as:

● quinoa
● sorghum
● oats
● buckwheat
● almond flour
● coconut flour

Lactose - Free Dairy

What To Avoid: Dairy that contains lactose, such as milk, cottage cheese, cream cheese, ice cream and sour cream. Most people can handle a very small amount of lactose, but if you eat more than your intestine can handle, you will likely get gas and abdominal pain. About half the population is born with low levels of lactase, which helps to metabolize and properly digest the lactose. Also, many types of dairy products are high in fat, which can lead to bouts of diarrhea. Therefore, choosing low fat or non – fat dairy may reduce your symptoms as well.

What To Eat Instead: Consider switching to dairy alternatives, such as lactose-free milk, oat milk, rice milk or soy milk as good alternatives to cow’s milk, as well as lactose-free yogurt. For cheese, try any of these three: hard cheeses, brie and camembert. Alternatively, if you don’t want to give up dairy, you can try taking a lactose supplement before you eat.

However, if you do want to cut dairy out, you can get your essential daily calcium intake from other foods, such as:

● Leafy greens
● Beans
● Nuts
● Sardines
● Seeds

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit contains a type of sugar called fructose, which can cause IBS flare – ups. It is especially high in apples and pears, and somewhat high in watermelon, stone fruits, concentrated fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice.

What To Avoid: When it comes to veggies, some of them tend to cause extra gas and abnormal bowel habits. So it’s highly recommended to cut back on the cruciferous type, which include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, coleslaw and sauerkraut. Also, it’s best to limit artichoke, brussels sprouts, onions, shallots, leeks and asparagus as well.

What To Eat Instead: Vegetables that are safe and good to eat with IBS are non – cruciferous: eggplant, green beans, celery, carrots, spinach, sweet potato, yam, zucchini and squash. You can also boost the flavors of these veggies with various herbs to make them more palatable, such as basil, chili, coriander, ginger, lemongrass, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.

Bean And Legume Substitutes

What To Avoid: It’s a well known fact that beans and legumes often cause bloating and flatulence due to the indigestible saccharides they contain. This means that baked beans, chickpeas, lentils and soybeans should be restricted or eaten only in very small amounts.

What To Eat Instead: Although they may not be legumes, these nutritious substitutes will help you feel full without the unwanted side effects: Try adding rice, oats, polenta, millet, quinoa and tapioca to your meals.

Non - Caffeinated Foods And Beverages

What To Avoid: It might not sound appealing to many, but IBS flare ups are often caused by caffeinated coffee and other products that contain caffeine, such as green tea, chocolate and energy drinks. Although it may help move things along in your digestive tract, caffeine is a strong stimulant that can aggravate your digestive tract. If you must have it to help you stay awake and get things done, limit your coffee to one cup per day.

What To Drink Instead: With IBS, it’s best to consume non – caffeinated versions of coffee and tea. To help you stay alert, if your primary health provider gives the green light, try taking zinc supplements after you eat for an energy boost.

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