Diet and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Food has a big part to play in any illness or health condition but when it comes to IBS, of which I have personal experience, it can make a huge difference.

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Do

Keep a food diary
Cook meals rather than buy ready meals
Get some exercise every day even if it’s just a short walk
Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation etc.

Don’t

Skip meals
Eat too much fruit
Drink too much alcohol, caffeine or fizzy drinks.

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Symptoms of IBS can include wind and/or bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation, low abdominal pain, lower back ache, the passing of mucus and the feeling of urgency to move bowels even after just doing that.

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To help alleviate the symptoms of diarrhoea try to avoid insoluble fibre as it is not broken down as easily by the natural bacteria in your gut as soluble fibre. However, it holds onto water very effectively and so helps increase the weight of your stools.

Try to cut down on foods containing insoluble fibre which includes pulses, whole grains, sweetcorn, green bananas, muesli that contains bran, undercooked or reheated potato, oven chips, waffle and fried rice. It’s a good idea to avoid ready meals containing potato or pasta.

Drink lots of water (aim for 8 glasses a day) or herbal tea. Limit alcohol to two units a day but don’t drink every day. Restrict caffeinated drinks to three a day. Don’t eat vegetable skins. Make your five a day largely vegetables and restrict fruit juice to around 150 mils a day. Avoid sugar free sweets. Avoid fatty foods.

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To help alleviate the symptoms of constipation increase your intake of insoluble fibre but only as far as it makes an adequate difference. Increase your five a day to six a day. Oats can help some people.

Soluble fibre is broken down by enzyme-producing bacteria which are naturally present in your colon. This increases your bowel movement and produces gas. It can cause your stools to become bulky because the amount of bacteria in your gut increases. Soluble fibre forms a substance which can bind to other substances and this has the benefit of lowering cholesterol levels and slowing down the entry of glucose into the blood so improving blood sugar levels.

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Give yourself time to adjust to any changes in diet. Changes do not produce instant results. It’s important to remember that you may find that foods don’t trigger your IBS or that you have a different result to the one you expect. We are all individuals and our experiences aren’t always the same.

Please note that I am not medically qualified, all that I have written comes from personal experience and the experiences of people with IBS that I’ve consulted with. For expert knowledge do consult your doctor and this page from the NHS website will give you decent information.

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