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Your IBS Diet Guide: Foods to Manage Your Symptoms

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferers know the struggle — living with abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation can throw your day into chaos. But diet can be a powerful ally. Learn which foods to eat and which foods to avoid to help manage your symptoms, save time and ditch the discomfort.


IBS Stomach Ache

What is IBS and What Causes it?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that affects one out of ten people in the United States each year. Scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of IBS or fully understand how specific diets influence its symptoms, however, several theories have emerged.

 

One prominent theory suggests that the microbiome — composed of trillions of bacteria residing in the digestive system — plays a crucial role. Dietary patterns can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, potentially promoting the overgrowth of certain bacteria linked to triggering IBS symptoms. Another theory suggests that certain foods can trigger an inflammatory response. For instance, while beans may cause gas retention in someone without IBS, for an IBS sufferer, consuming such beans could elicit a more intense reaction, including cramping and bloating.

 

Psychological stress can take a toll on your gut health through the well-established gut-brain connection. Anxiety, for example, can disrupt digestion and trigger cravings for sugary or fatty foods, which can worsen symptoms of IBS.


What Can I Eat?

IBS isn’t a one-size-fits-all condition. What triggers symptoms in one person might be perfectly fine for another. This individualized response highlights the importance of finding a personalized dietary approach for managing your IBS. The bright side? You have options. Here’s a glimpse of some strategies and foods that could benefit you. 

 

Strategy: The Low FODMAP Diet

One method to managing IBS is adopting the low FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that some people with IBS have difficulty digesting. Limiting FODMAPs in the diet can help manage symptoms for many individuals. Common FODMAPs include: 


  • Fructose. A simple sugar found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It's also part of table sugar (sucrose) and most added sugars.

  • Lactose. A sugar (disaccharide) primarily found in milk and other dairy products.

  • Fructans. Short-chain carbohydrates in various grains like wheat, spelt, rye, and barley, as well as in some vegetables like onions and garlic.

  • Galactans. Short-chain carbohydrates in high amounts in legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas. 

  • Polyols. Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and used as artificial sweeteners in sugar-free products.

 

Since FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, they reach the large intestine largely intact. This is where most of your gut bacteria live. These bacteria happily ferment the FODMAPs as fuel, but this process can cause digestive issues for IBS sufferers. The fermentation produces hydrogen gas, which can contribute to bloating and discomfort. Additionally, FODMAPs have an osmotic effect, drawing water into the intestine which can cause diarrhea.

 

Strategy: General Dietary Practices

Sometimes, it’s not just about the kind of food you eat that can affect your IBS. Consider adopting the following methods to help effectively manage symptoms. You could try: 


  • Eating meals at a slower pace

  • Eating until full

  • Drinking at least 8 cups of fluid each day

  • Limiting caffeine intake like tea or coffee to two cups a day

  • Reducing or avoiding alcohol and carbonated and sugary drinks

  • Increase fiber intake 

  • Avoid gluten

  • Manage stress

 

Food: General Recommendations

A food that might affect one person with IBS, may not have the same impact on another. Remember, IBS triggers vary from person to person. What calms one person’s gut might cause discomfort in another. To help you find what works best, we’ve compiled a list of foods commonly tolerated by people with IBS. 


  • Eggs. Eggs are easy to digest and don’t upset the colon and are a great source of protein.

  • Lean meats. Lean meats are another great source of protein. They include sirloin, top/bottom round steaks, pork, white meat chicken and white meat turkey. 

  • Salmon and other fish high in omega-3s. Also includes herring, black cod, anchovies, whitefish, sardines, rainbow trout and mackerel. 

  • More fiber. While 25-30g daily fiber is a common IBS recommendation, research is mixed. Bran (insoluble) shows little benefit, but soluble fiber (psyllium) seems promising, suggesting it may be better tolerated and more effective for IBS symptoms.

  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts

  • Fruit: Unripe bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, lime, mandarins, melons (excluding watermelon), oranges, passionfruit, strawberries

  • Vegetables: Alfalfa, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots, celery, chives, cucumbers, eggplant, ginger, green beans, kale, lettuce, olive, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, spinach, spring onions (only green), squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts, yams, zucchini.

  • Grains: Corn, oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, tapioca.


Managing IBS with Presidio Home Care

Making lifestyle changes can be frustrating, but our Presidio Home Care Aides are here to help. They’ll take the time to understand your loved one’s food preferences so they receive well-balanced and delicious meals (and snacks) that make them feel good. Contact us today to learn more.

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