As many as 45 million Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a chronic condition that causes an array of uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms, such as severe cramps, bloating, excess gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Anyone can develop IBS, including kids, although it does tend to happen more commonly among women.
Unlike inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which can cause irreparable damage to your bowel and other parts of your digestive tract, IBS affects how your bowel functions without causing permanent harm to the bowel. However, it can still take a serious toll on your health and wellness, and it still needs to be actively managed.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage IBS and its symptoms. In fact, many people can find relief with some simple changes to their eating habits.
In this post, the providers at Digestive Disease Specialists, with locations in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, offer nine diet recommendations that can help relieve IBS symptoms.
1. Drink plenty of water
Your body needs plenty of fluids to digest foods properly. Inadequate hydration can lead to constipation, dry stools, and bowel irritation. Aim to drink about eight glasses of water every day to keep your digestive tract healthy and functioning normally.
2. Skip alcohol and caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can irritate your digestive tract and trigger symptoms or make existing symptoms worse. For alternatives, try drinking herbal teas, mocktails that use natural fruit juices, and other decaffeinated beverages. If you can’t eliminate alcohol or caffeine entirely, at least consume them in moderation.
3. Limit spicy foods
Like alcohol and caffeine, spices can also irritate your digestive system, particularly “hot” spices. If you do use spices, try to consume them one at a time and keep a record of which ones affect you and which ones don’t.
4. Avoid fatty or fried foods
Fatty and deep-fried foods are also common triggers for IBS symptoms. These foods don't break down as easily, and they can put a strain on your digestive system, which can trigger bloating, cramps, and diarrhea.
5. Include fermented foods
There are plenty of fermented foods that taste great, and they can aid digestion, too. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut are all examples of fermented foods that contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that promote gut health. Just be sure the labels on these products indicate “live cultures” to reap the benefits.
6. Read up on FODMAPs
Eating a low FODMAP diet may help you avoid bloating and belly pain if you have IBS. FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates, specifically, fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Foods that are high in FODMAPs include onions, garlic, dairy, some fruits, and wheat.
7. Keep a food diary
The best way to know for sure which foods cause symptoms is to keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink, noting which foods or beverages cause symptoms. Over time, you can determine which foods or ingredients are most likely to cause issues.
8. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
Skip the regular pattern of eating three large meals a day, and instead eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals. This simple change can reduce stress on your digestive system and decrease your risk for IBS flare-ups.
9. Practice mindful eating
Rushing through your meals can exacerbate IBS symptoms. Instead, try slowing down while you eat, and take time to appreciate every bite. This type of intentional eating can help calm your digestive system and also help you eat less.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, there are solutions that can help relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. To learn more, request an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today.