After eating do you quickly feel bloated and gassy, become constipated or find yourself making frequent runs to the bathroom?
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms for at least three days a month over a period of three consecutive months or more, then you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome – also known as IBS.
It is estimated that IBS afflicts one in six Americans, particularly women, and it is the most common intestinal problem seen by gastroenterologists. No two cases of IBS are identical; what bothers one person’s GI tract may not bother another’s the same way. And food may not be the only culprit; caffeine, stress and anxiety can worsen IBS symptoms, too.
There is no cure for IBS, but that doesn’t mean you have to live in discomfort. Changes in diet can go a long way to bring lasting relief.
Keep it simple
If you haven’t got a clue as to what is spurring your IBS symptoms, then you might want to consider switching to very simple plain foods. Why? Eating heavily seasoned mixed dishes make it hard to identify possible food culprits whereas plain food gives you a sort of neutral baseline, to which you can add a food or ingredient here and there to check if these are a problem.
Oversized meals can overwhelm your system and cause abdominal cramping, bloating and diarrhea. Try eating smaller portions or perhaps grazing throughout the day will help.
Fat be gone!
Heavy, greasy, high fat foods aren’t healthy for anyone, but if you have IBS a fatty meal or snack may leave you feeling mighty queasy. Your best course of action is to choose foods you enjoy that are naturally low in fat, such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
What did I eat?
Does your stomach ache after your morning bowl of cereal and milk or mid-day coffee break? Start keeping a food diary and you will zero in on which foods do and don’t cause you distress. When you know what causes flare ups you’ll be able to create a meal plan that avoids these foods.
While many associate IBS with diarrhea for some the real problem is constipation. Eating more foods that are rich in fiber will help alleviate constipation and promote regularity. Fiber is found in all kinds of delicious foods, such as whole grains, fruits, oats, and vegetables and it’s simple to work them into a meal or snack. For example, add about a cup of blueberries to your breakfast, alone, in yogurt or on cereal, and you’ll get a hefty 5 grams boost of fiber. It’s a good idea to gradually increase your fiber intake over the course of a week to let your digestive system adjust.
Glug, glug, glug
It is important to drink plenty of water each day. It helps flush toxins out of our body, aids in easier waste elimination, and if you often experience diarrhea drinking water helps prevent dehydration. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. And you may want to cut back on or altogether kick alcohol and caffeine because these can exacerbate IBS symptoms.
For tips, delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes, and proven ways to lose weight and look great, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – With Fiber!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – With Fiber. Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.