“The heart, like the stomach, wants a varied diet.”-Gustave Flaubert
The French novelist summed up the temptation of today. There is a surfeit of choices available but not all of them are healthy. Our hectic lifestyles lead us to junk and low nutrition food. Our bodies do not assimilate the right quantity of vitamins and minerals. Processed foods mean less fiber and roughage. This type of diet and unhealthy lifestyles with no exercise aggravate various stomach issues including IBS.
What is IBS?
IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. It is a long term disorder of the intestines leading to belly pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
The causes of this disorder are yet unknown but is believed to be related to changes in the sensitivity of nerves and contractions of the intestines due to genetic problems, gastrointestinal tract infections, family history of colon cancer etc.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms:
The agony of IBS can be attributed to the pain, discomfort and inconvenience caused by the symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea, excess gas, abdominal pain, bloating etc. The muscles in our intestines contract and relax in waves called peristalsis that are responsible for pushing the in the form of faeces. However, for persons suffering from IBS, the normal rhythmic waves are disrupted due to ineffective communication between the brain and the digestive tract.
Sometimes, the bowel contracts too much leading to swift movement of food through the intestines, which results in diarrhoea. At other times, the intestinal muscles contract very slowly or without relaxing, thereby causing constipation.
Generally, IBS is associated with the following symptoms. Some people experience all of these while others experience only a few of these symptoms. IBS does not cause serious diseases but the symptoms are quite painful.
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Mucus in the stools
- Stomach cramps
- Gastrointestinal tract infection
- Undue weight loss
The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet:
Though IBS is a long term condition, it can be effectively controlled by making changes in the diet and lifestyle such as avoiding foods that aggravate the IBS symptoms, getting regular exercise and stress management. Diet is the primary form of treatment for diarrhoea patients but it is more difficult to treat constipation by diet alone.
No single IBS diet is applicable for all the patients. It varies from person to person depending upon the nature and magnitude of symptoms experienced by them. Diet for irritable bowel syndrome include the following:
[ Read: Mediterranean Diet For Weight loss ]
1. Soluble fibre:
A high fibre diet is generally considered suitable for almost everyone suffering from IBS. However, this is not true in all cases. There are two types of fibre-soluble and insoluble.
- During the digestive process, soluble fibre dissolves in water and turns into a gel and slows digestion. Soluble fibre is found in fruits like avocados, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, grapefruit, tangerines and pears, and breakfast cereal containing psyllium, oat bran, oatmeal, barley, white potatoes and asparagus.
- In spite of being healthy, insoluble fibre is generally hard on the intestines of people suffering from IBS. Insoluble fibre moves quickly through the colon thus aggravating the diarrhoea prominent IBS.
- People suffering from IBS should resort to foods with soluble fibre. Beans, lentils and chickpeas are a good source of soluble fibre but they are also gas producing. Therefore, these should be taken in appropriate quantities so that they do not aggravate the symptoms as certain amount of gas production is a sign of healthy microbes at work.
- Plant based foods such as grains and vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fibres. Those suffering from IBS can increase the soluble fibre in particular.
Though IBS diet largely includes foods with soluble fibre, it is recommended to eat a variety of foods in moderation without eating too much of one particular food or too much food at one time. While high intake of soluble fibre is recommended for diarrhoea predominant IBS, those suffering from constipation predominant IBS are required to be more aggressive in their dietary pattern. They are required to take 3 to 6 or more daily portions of soluble fibre in their meals and snacks. The portions should be moderated and spread throughout the day to avoid excess gas and discomfort.
Fruits like apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, mangoes and pears are high in fructose or sorbitol and may be trigger foods for some people. They are excellent sources of soluble fibre and should be included in the diet.
[ Read: Three Days Diet ]
Fluids are equally important in this diet for normal healthy digestion. Therefore, it is essential to drink two to three litres of water each day. Plain water and decaffeinated tea are the only beverages that are allowed. Carbonated beverages and alcohol should strictly be avoided as they may stimulate the intestines and worsen the symptoms.
Foods that aggravate IBS:
There are certain foods that act as trigger foods as they aggravate or worsen the IBS symptoms. The most common among these foods are fatty foods like fried foods, heavy restaurant meals, fatty meat, and vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, legumes, whole grains, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Following are some of the common trigger foods which should restricted in the diet if not completely avoided.
1. Milk and Dairy:
Milk and other dairy products are often responsible for interfering with the normal digestive process of many people suffering from IBS. Avoid yoghurt, cheese, cottage cheese, ice-creams, creamy soups and sauces, puddings etc.
2. Foods high in insoluble fibre:
Insoluble fibre does not work well for IBS patients, particularly those with diarrhoea predominant IBS. Foods having a high content of insoluble fibre such as whole wheat pasta, wheat germ, popcorn, millets, quinoa, whole grain breads, whole nuts and seeds may trigger IBS symptoms.
Wheat and wheat flour contain a protein called gluten, which some individuals find difficult to digest. Common trigger foods include white and whole wheat breads, crackers, cereals, pasta and baked foods.
4. Raw Vegetables:
Those suffering from IBS should stick to cooked vegetables as raw vegetables are bad for their bowels. Besides, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage can be troublesome even when eaten cooked.
5. Fatty Foods and Red Meat:
Fatty or fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, fried fish and red meat are equally bad for IBS patients. Therefore, it is advisable to replace the hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs or sausages with poultry, fish and other lean meats for protein.
6. Beans and Lentils:
Beans and lentils are difficult to digest for people with IBS as they often cause gastrointestinal effects, bloating, cramping and diarrhoea.
7. Onion and Garlic:
Onion and garlic might harm the digestive tract. Therefore, these should be replaced as seasonings with milder ingredients like herbs, olive oil and simple sauces that do not aggravate IBS.
Sugar and spices are not at all friendly when it comes to IBS patients. Different sweeteners containing fructose such as sugar, honey, fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup or an alcohol sweetener like sorbitol, maltitol, or mannitol can harm the intestinal tract. Therefore, candies, chewing gum or any beverage containing these sweeteners should be avoided along with fruits containing sorbitol like apples, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, prunes, cherries and nectarines.
9. Carbonated, Caffeinated and Alcoholic Beverages:
Fizzy beverages and carbonated drinks like soda can make you feel gassy. Besides, alcohol also proves to be a culprit in aggravating IBS symptoms in some people. IBS is also experienced by some people after drinking caffeinated coffee, teas and soft drinks.
In spite of the fact that dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants, it may trigger IBS symptoms in some people and cause digestive discomfort. Hence, they should find a substitute for chocolates and other foods containing chocolate.
Condiments make nutritious dishes more delicious but they have little to offer in terms of nutrition. In fact, some condiments such as ketchup, pickles, soy sauce, chutneys and barbecue sauces are likely to aggravate IBS symptoms.
Routine is equally crucial in addition to proper diet for IBS suffering individuals. The time, type and quantity of food intake should be as consistent as possible. Apart from including the above-mentioned irritable bowel syndrome diet, getting enough sleep, quiet time to relax and relieve stress and regular physical activity are also key to success.
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