IBS or irritable bowel syndrome is not a clearly defined physical condition. Instead, it is a collection of distressing intestinal symptoms that typically occur together. Since the predominant symptoms of IBS bring on digestive distress, it is believed that the condition can be managed better by restricting the diet and eliminating common trigger foods. In fact, dietary management has shown promise as a key element in the treatment of IBS. Here are 7 foods to avoid for irritable bowel syndrome:
1. Insoluble Fiber
Fiber is known to add healthy bulk to the diet. Of the two types of fiber, soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows down digestion while insoluble fiber neither dissolves nor gets absorbed in water but passes through the digestive tract intact, speeding the movement of food. It is the latter of the two that can worsen symptoms and aggravate the discomfort of diarrhea in IBS sufferers.
This is because insoluble fiber, much like fat, is a powerful GI tract stimulant and for people will IBS, it can be a little hard to handle as it may promote laxative effects.
Eating more fiber can help reduce either diarrhea or constipation associated with IBS but it depends on the type of fiber consumed. Studies reveal that supplementing with soluble dietary fiber may help better manage overall IBS symptoms.
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains like wheat, barley and rye. It can cause digestive tract complications in individuals with a gluten intolerance because the body reacts negatively to ingesting gluten.
Likewise, celiac disease is a disorder that is genetically established where sufferers cannot process gluten in their intestines. This can cause IBS-like symptoms such as bloating, cramping and abdominal discomfort.
Some research reveals that patients diagnosed with IBS report a lessening of symptoms when they follow a gluten free diet.
Foregoing gluten means staying away from traditional wheat based products like breads, cookies, doughs and finding other suitable options.
Dairy is also another common food trigger and allergen that can cause digestive discomfort. First off, dairy products contain fat which can increase bouts of diarrhea. Then there are people who are lactose intolerant and cannot digest these fats well. When IBS is thrown into the mix, the combination of the two can aggravate these symptoms significantly.
There are other milk proteins like casein and whey which can also cause severe digestive problems. So even if you are not lactose intolerant, dairy products like cheese, butter, sour cream and ice cream can all trigger IBS attacks.
4. Fried and Fatty Foods
Fried foods are high in fat content that can be hard on the digestive system. Frying food can actually change the chemical makeup of foods making it more difficult to digest.
Processed foods also fall in this category as many of these foods are fried or have a high fat content. Plus they also contain additives and preservatives which can trigger IBS flare-ups.
5. Sugar Free Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners also known as sugar alcohols are commonly found in foods like gum, candy, diet drinks and even mouthwash. Many of these products contain ingredients like aspartame, sucralose, erythritol and xylitol.
The problems with these ingredients is that they are not only hard for the body to absorb, but for the most part are highly indigestible. This inability to be digested properly naturally leads to problems like gastric distress, bloating and diarrhea even for people with a healthy gut. Those with IBS suffer more.
6. Caffeinated Products
Caffeinated drinks like coffee, sodas and energy drinks have a stimulating effect on the intestines that can cause diarrhea.
Other products that are not beverages but contain caffeine can have the same effect. These include chocolate bars and candy that can bring on IBS symptoms due to their concentration of caffeine and high sugar content.
Alcohol is a major trigger for IBS because of the way it is digested. Consumption can greatly increase the severity of symptoms as it can act as an irritant on the bowel.
Among alcoholic options, beer is tricky since it often contains gluten while wines and mixed drinks come with a high sugar content. Plus, alcohol has a dehydrating effect which can further intensify IBS symptoms.
Other than these common triggers there are also other certain vegetables that are hard to digest. In fact, when the intestines try to break these down, they can cause painful diarrhea and gas. Some examples include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic and onions.
Is IBS a Disability?
Depending on the severity of the symptoms of IBS, the condition can be a serious impairment. It is a chronic disorder with varying symptoms. And even though IBS presents no actual damage to health, the symptoms can be unpleasant and may impact a person’s quality of life.
One set of symptoms deals with the digestive system alone including common problems like abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Some people may also experience excessive flatulence and a sudden urge to empty the bowels.
Because these symptoms are so generic, a lot of people do not report them to their GP. But individuals who do suffer from IBS, will experience symptomatic flare ups that can easily last between 1-4 days.
Once the flare up subsides, symptoms may abate as well or disappear altogether. Some people may experience symptoms that are not persistent and resolve only to recur later. For others the symptoms may be continuous.
However, the symptoms are not solely restricted to the digestive tract. In fact, they can also present themselves in other areas of the body and include issues like lower back pain, joint and muscle pain, constant fatigue, nausea, headaches, burping and bad breath.
Causes of IBS
The precise cause of IBS remains unestablished. However, many experts think that there may be some interrelated factors causing the condition. Some of these possibly include abnormal muscle movement through the GI tract, sensitive digestive organs, or an impaired immune system.
Other than physical factors affecting IBS, it is believed that certain psychological factors may also be at play. For instance, fluctuations in emotional health including depression or stress can often trigger an IBS flare-up. The condition is also observed more in individuals who may have undergone a previous traumatic experience.
However, this does not mean that IBS is something in the mind because the physical symptoms experienced are very real.
Because different IBS symptoms can appear very generic, a lot of people may not take them seriously. On the other hand, since they may also mimic symptoms associated with more serious health conditions, it is recommended that a diagnosis is established.
Your doctor may be able to give you a diagnosis based on your symptoms. Diagnosis typically works by elimination and may include the following steps:
- Questions to establish your level and frequency of abdominal discomfort and any changes in bowel movements
- Eliminating certain foods to check for allergies or food intolerances
- A stool sample to rule out infection
- Blood test to check for anemia, celiac disease and other conditions causing similar symptoms
- A colonoscopy only if the doctor suspects a more serious condition such as colitis, IBD or cancer
Once the condition gets diagnosed as IBS, there is no reason to think that it may develop into something more sinister. You can even take Ultra Omega Burn which contains Omega 7 to keep it under control.
Fret not if you have IBS. Yes, it can be an inconvenience when you’re travelling or if it strikes out of the blue. However there are millions of people out there with IBS and living perfectly normal lives. Just be more mindful of your food intake and stress levels.