7 Dietary Tips for Managing IBS

7 Dietary Tips for Managing IBS

In our previous blog we discussed what Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is and how it is commonly diagnosed, as well as some basic information on lifestyle habits to manage IBS. In this blog more details on dietary strategies to manage IBS will be discussed, but first we must differentiate between types of IBS.

Types of IBS

IBS has a spectrum of digestive symptoms including discomfort or pain and a change in bowel habits. These can range from mild to severe and tend to be intermittent and associated with the consumption of food or with the passing of a bowel movement. Many with IBS also experience bloating and increased gas or flatulence. The most common way of categorizing IBS is either IBS-C, meaning IBS with predominant constipation symptoms and IBS-D, meaning IBS with diarrhea or loose bowel movements.

Another classification that falls under the IBS umbrella is a condition known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO. SIBO results in more severe IBS symptoms that are more persistent and occur almost every time the person eats. Those with SIBO can benefit from the same dietary strategies as IBS while getting to the root cause of the problem.

7 Dietary Tips for IBS

1. Increase Fluid intake 

Many people don't consume enough water and chronic dehydration can lead to constipation and overall stress on your body. Our bodies are mostly made up of water and proper digestion of food requires significant water to allow transit through the intestines

2. Follow a Regular Eating Pattern

To help better manage IBS and to avoid flare-ups, it's a good idea to establish and follow a regular eating pattern:

  • Eat at similar times each day to allow proper digestion between meals - schedule similar times for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
  • Make meals moderate in size as large meals can worsen symptoms
  • Try to leave 2 hours minimum between each meal
  • Consume water between meals - consuming too much with meals can dilute your digestive juices

3. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Intake

Studies on alcohol and IBS have found binge drinking worsens IBS but small amounts of alcohol do not appear to have significant effects. 

Caffeine intake can also have effects on IBS. Coffee has been shown to increase gastric acid secretion and colonic motor activity in healthy individuals. Coffee has also been reported to stimulate the colon and lead to a laxative effect in some people, however the role of caffeine in IBS is not completely clear. Everyone is different when it comes to how they react to caffeine so individuals have to determine if this is a problem for them.

4. Fibre Intake

For a long time, it was believed that when dietary fibre intake is increased, IBS would be improved (particularly IBS-C). However, after many studies, advice on fibre intake and IBS has changed. For some patients with IBS, fibre may actually exacerbate symptoms.

 Fibre is found in all whole plant foods, which are some of the most important foods to consume for health and wellbeing, however some of these foods may need to be eliminated temporarily to treat IBS symptoms. Insoluble fibre such as wheat bran and other grain-based products were found to worsen IBS symptoms in one study however, soluble, non-fermentable fibre such as psyllium were found to benefit people who have either IBS-C or IBS-D. 

It's important to take note of how foods affect you individually - gradually aim to increase your intake of the fibre-filled foods you can tolerate to the daily recommended amount of 20-30g of fibre per day.

Some people with IBS follow a low-FODMAP diet by temporarily eliminating highly-fermentable fibres from your diet. Learn more about the FODMAP diet and how it may work for you in our blog next week!

5. Avoid Dairy Products

Milk and dairy products contain lactose, a type of sugar that is not well digested by a large proportion of adults worldwide. Undigested lactose leads to an increase in intestinal gas production that can lead to GI symptoms in case of milk ingestion. Typical GI complaints of lactose intolerance are similar to those with IBS, and many patients with IBS attribute symptoms to consumption of milk and dairy products.

Most traditional meal replacements contain dairy protein and lactose - for this reason, Sperri was specifically designed to contain no dairy ingredients making it a safer choice for anyone with IBS, lactose intolerance, or allergies!

6. Try to Avoid Wheat and Gluten

The role of gluten in IBS is not completely understood. A considerable proportion of people with IBS report that symptoms occur following ingestion of gluten, despite no diagnosis of celiac disease or wheat allergy. This condition is known as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”. Studies have reported that removing or restricting foods containing gluten from patients’ diet for four to eight weeks improved IBS symptoms and increased intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut).

7. Eat Organic

A growing body of research suggests many herbicides, pesticides and food additives can have negative effects on our gut microbiome. It's best to choose organic foods and beverages whenever possible to reduce your exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.

A second tip is shopping at local markets and from local farmers where you can often find “Spray Free” fruits and vegetables. Sometimes an organic certification is too expensive for small farmers but many do their best to avoid harmful substances on their crops - just ask! Sperri is certified organic - it's important to us to source the safest ingredients for our nutritional products. 

Find What Works Best For You

IBS is quite common and can be frustrating to deal with. If you think you may have IBS, seek support from a healthcare provider to rule out other causes of gut-related concerns. If you have IBS there are definitely things you can do to get a handle on symptoms and even make them go away! Managing IBS generally requires trial and error to find the best dietary and lifestyle strategies that work for you while also working with a healthcare provider to find the root cause of your symptoms.

Hopefully the suggestions here and in our previous blog on IBS were helpful.

Stay tuned for more gut health and overall wellbeing tips to come!