“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.
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