Food intolerances or allergies are strong contributors to the exacerbation of IBS symptoms. Individuals with IBS often discover that certain foods aggravate symptoms while others have found relief from IBS symptoms by modifying their daily diet.
Foods to be included in the diet
The standard procedure is to increase the amount of dietary fibre to manage the symptoms of IBS since a diet low in fibre is believed to be one of the reasons for the onset of IBS5.
Including the food in the given list that are rich in fibre helps with IBS-C.
- Oats and oatmeal
- Legumes like peas, beans etc
- Fruits like apple, citrus fruits, bananas, avocados, figs, guava, pear
- Vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli,
- Nuts like flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hazel nuts
- Sufficient fluid intake to support the fibre intake
Foods to be restricted
Insoluble fibre (which does not get digested in the stomach) present in certain food can lead to bloating and gas.
Apart from the fibre, lactose, gluten and some forms of carbs present in the food can aggravate IBS. Given below are the food items that can trigger IBS and need to be restricted -
- Wheat and wheat products, rye, garlic, onion, legumes like kidney beans, dry peas and whole gram, leek
- Dairy and products like curd, yoghurt, cream, cheese, milk powder, condensed milk and desserts made with milk/milk products
- Fruits like mango, watermelon, pears, cherries, plums can lead to bloating in susceptible people
- Artificial sweeteners especially those containing mannitols or xylitols.
- Ready to eat and commercially processed items containing refined flour and additives.
Once the restriction has brought about symptomatic relief, the next step would be to reintroduce the foods listed under restricted section, one by one. This will give an idea of the foods that exacerbate the IBS symptoms.
After the triggers have been identified, it is better to maintain a food diary to keep an account of the foods that trigger IBS and avoid them in the future while returning to the normal diet.
Since IBS cannot be completely cured, certain modifications in our day to day life can help to improve the quality of life and manage IBS.
- Have regular meals and take time to eat.
- Avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating.
- Drink at least eight cups of fluid per day, especially water or other non-caffeinated drinks, for example herbal teas.
- Restrict tea and coffee to three cups per day.
- Reduce intake of alcohol and fizzy drinks.
- It may be helpful to limit intake of high-fibre food (such as wholemeal or high-fibre flour and breads, cereals high in bran, and whole grains such as brown rice).
- Reduce intake of ‘resistant starch’ (starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon intact), which is often found in processed or re-cooked foods.
- People with wind and bloating may find it helpful to eat oats (such as oat-based breakfast cereal or porridge)
Use of probiotics for IBS
There is some evidence that certain probiotics may help improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Probiotics are the good bacteria that regulate the gut microbiome.
Changing the gut microflora using probiotics have been helpful in giving symptomatic relief from gas and bloating in people with IBS9. Probiotics can regulate bowel function including motility, sensation, and immune function.
The type and duration of the probiotic course would depend on the severity of IBS and hence must be taken after consultation with a professional healthcare practitioner.