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Nutrition and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Dietary Changes for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you are experiencing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) your gastroenterologist may recommend making certain dietary changes to help relieve the symptoms. There is no single dietary recommendation for IBS because everyone experiences symptoms differently, and different foods may trigger symptoms for different people. 

Physicians work closely with nutritionists to help identify which foods trigger symptoms. Being aware of these foods enables you to eliminate them from your diet, which may help alleviate gas, cramping, diarrhea or constipation.

It can take weeks or months to determine which foods trigger your symptoms. Seeing your gastroenterologist regularly and keeping a food diary can help you get on the right path to symptom relief.

Your gastroenterologist may recommend avoiding a group of well-known dietary triggers, often referred to as the FODMAP list, for six to eight weeks to determine whether cutting them from your diet alleviates digestive symptoms. FODMAP stands for:

  • Fermentable Oligosaccharides

  • Disaccharides

  • Monosaccharides

  • Polyols

Foods containing these sugars can be difficult for some people, particularly those with IBS, to digest. If eliminating these foods helps, your physician recommends reincorporating foods from the “FODMAP” list one by one to determine which ones are the triggers.

Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine may aggravate IBS symptoms. Caffeine and nicotine stimulate the colon and can cause loose bowel movements or abdominal cramping. Coffee, tea, and energy drinks contain caffeine, as does chocolate.

Fiber helps the body regulate digestion. Adding fiber-rich foods to your diet can relieve constipation in some people. However, people with IBS may find that foods containing high amounts of fiber such as cereals or baked goods made with bran are difficult to digest. These foods may cause gas, bloating and abdominal cramping.

Your physician and nutritionist may recommend slowly increasing your intake of fiber over a few weeks to find out whether adding it to your diet relieves symptoms. If fiber relieves constipation but increases abdominal pain or bloating, your doctor may recommend taking an over-the-counter supplement instead. 

To access the full article on dietary changes and IBS, click here