An IBS diet helps to relieve the painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Millions of people suffer with this disorder and, although it is the source of major discomfort and its symptoms do affect one’s quality of life, IBS isn’t fatal, it does not damage the colon and it does not necessarily lead to other health conditions. Those who suffer with IBS should know exactly what it is and what causes it, as well as be aware that an IBS diet can control its symptoms.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Definition
Irritable bowel syndrome involves a set of symptoms that affect the colon. It is not classified as a disease, but is a malfunctioning of the bowel.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Causes
Although doctors are not certain about what causes irritable bowel syndrome, the connection between IBS and food is undeniable. The physical contractions, which are key symptoms of IBS, often occur when a person eats too much or eats certain foods. In people with IBS it is also found that the muscles in their bowel are more sensitive than normal, which is what triggers the contractions after a meal or when the bowel begins to stretch.
While stress does not cause IBS, people who suffer from it report that its symptoms are often triggered by stressful situations. It should also be noted that some people eat as a response to stress and are more prone to eat foods that should be stricken from an IBS diet when they are under emotional stress.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms
People with IBS experience the following symptoms:
- Abdominal cramping
- Excessive stomach gas
- Abdominal discomfort
In some cases people may also notice mucous in the stool or a feeling of an incomplete bowel movement. Women with IBS also frequently experience symptoms during their monthly menstrual cycle.
Dietary changes are a must for anyone wishing to be relieved of IBS symptoms. Constructing an IBS diet relies on knowing exactly which foods to avoid and knowing which foods to incorporate into the diet. Simply keeping a food journal to note what is being eaten on a daily basis and relating when symptoms are present and what was eaten just prior to their onset can help in tailoring a personal irritable bowel syndrome diet.
Some of the foods that are known to trigger irritable bowel syndrome and which should be avoided in an IBS diet include, but are not limited to:
- Carbonated drinks
- Caffeinated drinks and chocolate
- Fried foods
- Foods high in fat
- Foods high in acid
- Foods high in sulphur
- Red meat
- Dairy products
Also, eating smaller meals throughout the day helps avoid overeating, which can cause IBS symptoms. Once the relationship between IBS and food is properly understood, a person keen on personalizing an IBS diet should focus on eating smaller portions of the right foods five or six times a day. Not only will this help with digestion, but also it will keep a person from becoming too hungry and overeating at mealtimes.
If constipation is a problem, an IBS diet that increases fiber intake can help. Fiber helps soften the stool thus allowing it to pass easier. Still, in some people, an IBS diet that includes a fiber increases causes abdominal discomfort and gas. On a trial basis, one can slowly increase high fiber foods while documenting the bowel’s reaction to them. Some of these foods include:
- Kidney and lima beans
- Whole grain breads and cereals
For those who experience discomfort from these high fiber foods, fiber intake should still be continued, but only foods, which are high in soluble fiber, are therefore recommended. The reason for this involves the fact that soluble fibers actually soothe the digestive tract and relieve symptoms of both constipation and diarrhea. A few of the foods distinctly high in soluble fiber include, but are not limited to:
- Rice and rice cereals
- White breads (without preservatives, artificial ingredients, sweeteners and other additives)
- Soy products
- Sweet potatoes
Though all of these are healthy parts of an irritable bowel syndrome diet, they should never be eaten on an empty stomach or eaten alone. Instead, they should be incorporated as part of a healthy diet. Also, all fast foods, processed foods and foods considered to be junk foods should always be avoided in an IBS diet.
In conjunction with an IBS diet, people with this condition should also engage in activities to reduce their stress levels and which control their reactions to stress. As previously mentioned, stress can trigger symptoms and can cause a person to eat foods that should otherwise be avoided in an irritable bowel syndrome diet. Just as IBS and food share a close relationship, so do stress and food. To reduce stressful feelings and poor reactions to stress, a person should find enjoyable activities and hobbies, which cause them to relax. Also, practicing yoga, meditation, getting adequate amounts of daily exercise and adequate amounts of sleep are all healthy ways to help one cope with stress.
When symptoms of IBS are present, one of the most often recommended natural cures and home remedies includes consuming peppermint tea. Drinking peppermint tea for several days surrounding an attack relaxes the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract and helps relieve pain. It is also recommended that a higher concentration of soluble fibers be consumed during an IBS attack, as well.
Ignoring the relationship between IBS and food is a surefire way to guarantee the continued pain, discomfort and disruption that accompanies irritable bowel syndrome.
However, following an IBS diet helps people regain control over the onset of its symptoms and live healthier lives overall.