Foods That Help IBS

Iirritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder which affects your colon (large intestine). Common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhoea, gas and constipation. Once diagnosed with IBS, many patients are able to control some of the symptoms with dietary changes.

Insoluble Fiber

Adding more fibre to your diet may seem like an unconventional approach, particularly if you are suffering from diarrhoea. Fibre can help to soften your stools and ease constipation, but insoluble fibre can increase gas and abdominal discomfort. Foods rich in insoluble fibre are a healthy part of every diet. The best way to increase your intake of these foods is to do so slowly and always pair an insoluble fibre food with a soluble fibre food (as discussed in the following section). Some insoluble fibre foods include seeds, nuts, granola, popcorn, beans (like kidney or lima), lentils, whole grains, whole wheat products, bran, berries, cherries, grapes, raisins, pineapple, apples, peaches, nectarines, raw broccoli, raw cabbage, Brussels sprouts, raw leafy greens, rhubarb, melon, citrus fruits, prunes, dates, eggplant, bell peppers, celery, onions, garlic, corn, cauliflower and sprouts. Eating these foods peeled and cooked can often make them easier to tolerate.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fibre (which usually comes from starchy foods as opposed to bran or leafy greens) can help to prevent symptoms while soothing and regulating your GI (gastrointestinal) tract. Soluble fibre works in your large intestine to absorb excess liquid, preventing diarrhoea. It also works to regulate your colon's contractions, easing abdominal cramping and discomfort. Foods rich in soluble fibre include pasta, rice, barley, oatmeal, white breads (like French, Italian or sourdough), soy, quinoa, rice cereal, potatoes, flour tortillas, corn meal, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, beets, rutabagas, squash, parsnips, avocados, chestnuts, mangoes, papaya, bananas and applesauce.

Eating Smaller Meals

Switching your routine from 3 large meals to 6 small meals can help to alleviate symptoms and regulate your eating times (helping to regulate bowel functions). Eating smaller portions enables you to have a more constant intake of beneficial soluble fibre, which also helps to protect you from adverse reactions to other foods. Eating more frequently will also prevent you from overeating, which can trigger an attack of symptoms.

Foods to Avoid

Avoiding greasy, high-fat goods is a crucial step in managing your IBS symptoms because these foods are potent stimulants of your GI tract and create spasms in the colon. Moderating (and in some cases eliminating) your consumption of the following foods is important: red meat, bacon, ham, pork chops, dark-meat poultry, poultry with skin, dairy products, egg yolks, French fries, onion rings, corn dogs, anything deep-fried, anything skillet-fried in fat, butter, shortening, mayonnaise, margarine, salad dressings, coconut milk, solid chocolate, tartare sauce, oils, olives, pastries, doughnuts, nuts, nut butters, pie crust, potato or corn chips and banana chips. This doesn't mean that you'll never eat these foods again, but be very careful when you do. Coffee and alcohol stimulate and irritate the GI tract to trigger an IBS attack. Artificial sweeteners and fats also trigger diarrhoea and discomfort.

Keeping a Food Journal

While there is no cure for IBS, it does not cause permanent damage to your colon and your symptoms can be well controlled with dietary changes. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated and keep a food diary to help uncover foods that trigger your symptoms (this varies from patient to patient). Keep track of when your symptoms occur, what kinds of symptoms you experience, what you've eaten that day and keep a running list of any foods that always seem to make you feel ill after eating.

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About the Author

Caryn Anderson combines extensive behind-the-scenes writing experience with her passion for all things food, fashion, garden and travel. Bitten by the travel bug at the age of 15 after a trip to Europe, Anderson fostered her love of style and fashion while living in New York City and earning her degree at New York University.