What to Eat if You Have IBS

Updated on 20. Jul. 2020
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If you commonly suffer from digestive issues, an irritable bowel may be the cause. The symptoms from this common disorder vary greatly, from flatulence to diarrhea. However the right diet can have a marked effect on the severity and frequency of these symptoms. Below, we’ll outline the best foods and practices to help you manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

IBS is a functional disorder of the bowels that can manifest in a variety of symptoms. Although IBS does impair the function of the intestine, none of the disorder’s symptoms are dangerous, and many of them can be managed with the right diet.

Table of contents

  1. What is IBS?
  2. How Can Diet Affect IBS? 
  3. What Should I Eat if I Have IBS?
  4. What Shouldn’t I Eat if I Have IBS?

What is IBS?

The term "irritable bowel syndrome" encompasses a variety of digestive problems, with symptoms ranging from diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, flatulence, and other symptoms. These issues can last from a period of several weeks to months. 

Triggers for IBS can include a sensitive intestinal lining, issues with your gut bacteria, stress or even mental illness. 

How Can Diet Affect IBS? 

The right combination of foods can have a marked effect on IBS symptoms, and even alleviate them in many cases.

If you’re suffering from IBS, a good place to start is by avoiding FODMAPs, (fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and sugar alcohols) a group of short chain carbohydrates that are difficult for the small intestine to digest, and can often initiate IBS symptoms. These foods can include certain vegetables like beans and garlic, and onions, high-fructose fruits, processed meats like sausages, and products high in refined sugars. 

What Should I Eat if I Have IBS?

The ideal diet to help alleviate IBS symptoms will vary for each person depending on the severity of your IBS and your personal food intolerances. To start out, it’s recommended that you adhere to a strict FODMAP diet for about four to eight weeks. Afterwards, you can start implementing restricted foods back into your diet one at a time, monitoring how your body reacts to each ingredient, and which seem to re-trigger your symptoms. 

Pungent spices, such as chilli or curry powder, are known to irritate the intestine, and should be consumed only rarely if you suffer from IBS. Many types of cabbage, as well as onions, beans and cauliflower, are also well-known to aggravate IBS symptoms. 

A sufficient fluid intake is also a surprisingly effective and simple way to help combat IBS symptoms in many. If you’re suffering from IBS, ensure you’re drinking a half liter of water or lightly-brewed herbal teas each day. Fiber-rich foods such as kale, pumpkins, melon and buckwheat can also help relieve symptoms. A high-fiber, high-water diet is particularly beneficial for alleviating constipation. 

These foods are especially beneficial if you have IBS:

Psyllium Husks: The mucilages contained in these husks swell in the intestines and can thus help to relieve constipation. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water if you integrate psyllium husks into your diet.

Parsley: Many herbs, such as parsley, contain a rich supply of essential oils that can help soothe irritated intestines and relieve stomach pain.

Ginger: This spice contains numerous pungent substances that have been shown to stimulate digestion and blood circulation. Ginger also contains the essential oil linalool, which can help alleviate flatulence.

Raw ginger can help alleviate IBS symptoms.

What Shouldn’t I Eat if I Have IBS?

Dried Fruit: Dried fruits contain little water but are high in fructose, which can cause IBS. 

Dairy: Most dairy products contain lactose, a type of sugar which is a leading cause of irritable bowel syndrome. If you suffer from IBS and want to consume dairy, make sure you’re purchasing lactose-free products.

Onions: While the essential oils contained in onions can have a variety of health benefits, they have been known to aggravate IBS symptoms, especially flatulence.

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