Dietary Solutions for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

December 9, 2019 , , ,

If you have chronic digestive symptoms (constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, etc.), the first thing to do is consult with a doctor to investigate the cause and eliminate the possibility of a serious health problem (celiac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, cancer, parasites, etc.). Keep into consideration that sometimes starting a new medication or supplement can cause digestive upset. An increase in the level of stress can also be a major trigger.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is defined according to the Rome IV criteria, in which a person could be diagnosed with IBS if they have experienced recurrent abdominal pain on average at least once a week during the previous three months that is associated with two or more of the following:

  • Related to defecation;
  • Associated with a change in stool frequency;
  • Associated with a change in in stool form or appearance.

The timing of symptoms can sometimes be an important clue to the cause of symptoms. If digestive symptoms occur immediately after consuming a specific food, this typically signals an allergic reaction rather than an intolerance. When digestive symptoms occur soon after a meal (approximately 15 to 90 minutes), this may be caused by an acceleration of gastrocolic reflex. Large portions, meals high in fat and food high in roughage can contribute to stimulating this reflex. Finally, when the symptoms occur after the food has had time to reach the intestine (about 2 to 8 hours), they can be caused by malabsorption of some sugars in the intestine.

Sometimes, simple changes to one’s diet may be enough to resolve the symptoms. For example, a lack of fiber or dehydration can cause constipation, and coffee consumption can cause diarrhea in some people. It should be noted that even decaffeinated coffee can cause diarrhea due to its chlorogenic acid content that stimulates the intestinal transit. Here are some simple tips to try if you have symptoms of diarrhea or constipation.

Symptoms of constipation

  • Hydrate yourself sufficiently
  • Increase your dietary fiber intake (minimum 30 g per day)
  • Increase your consumption of foods high in soluble fiber (oatmeal, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, kiwi, barley, legumes, psyllium, Metamucil, etc.)

Symptoms of diarrhea

  • Eat smaller meals more often (rather than 3 large meals a day) to reduce the stimulation of the gastrocolic reflex
  • Avoid foods that are high in fat and added sugar
  • Avoid foods that can irritate the digestive system such as spicy foods, some artificial sweeteners, alcoholic beverages and coffee
  • Reduce your intake of foods that are high in insoluble fiber and roughage such as salads, popcorn, and fruit and vegetable peels
  • Choose foods that are high in soluble fiber and also low in roughage such as oatmeal, oranges, sweet potatoes without peels, kiwis and chia seeds.

If simple changes to your diet are not helpful to reduce your gastrointestinal symptoms, other dietary approaches may be considered to help determine the cause of your symptoms and fix the issue.

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Kathryn Adel
Kathryn completed degrees in kinesiology and nutrition, as well as a Masters in Sports Nutrition. She is a member of OPDQ and of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health. Kathryn is experienced with the low FODMAP diet and she completed the Monash University low FODMAP dietitian's training.

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