- Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common condition that is associated with abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
- To manage IBS symptoms, there are some dietitian-recommended dietary tips people with IBS can follow that may help.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition associated with a group of symptoms, including abdominal pain and bowel movement challenges, like diarrhea or constipation. It affects between 10% and 15% of the U.S. population.
April is IBS Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of this common syndrome.
While there is no cure for IBS, there are certain lifestyle choices people can take that may help manage symptoms, allowing people with IBS to live their lives without some of these negative symptoms.
Along with taking certain medications and managing stress, following certain dietary practices can help people avoid discomfort and bowel issues.
If you are one of the many people who have IBS and are eager to incorporate certain dietary habits that may help you manage your symptoms, here are five dietitian-recommended tips that you can try.
Use a Food and Mood Journal
A food and mood journal is a tool that is used to monitor which foods you are eating and how eating them makes you feel before and after. To use a food and mood journal, a person would document what was eaten, followed by how they feel afterward—both emotionally and physically.
“A food and mood journal can be a powerful tool to help someone connect with how food is making their gut feel,” Amanda Sauceda MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and gut health nutritionist, told Verywell. “A journal will enable someone to pick up patterns and will be helpful information to take to their dietitian and healthcare provider.”
Sauceda adds that people with IBS can have unique food triggers, so looking back at a food and mood journal can help people identify which foods don’t agree with their bodies.
Pay Attention to Ingredients in Prepackaged Foods
While fresh versions of certain foods may not result in experiencing any gastrointestinal discomfort, opting for a prepackaged version may offer a different result thanks to the additional (and sometimes surprising) ingredients that may be added into the mix.
“Prepackaged foods and seasonings may contain hidden triggering ingredients, like onions and garlic,” Andrew Akhaphong, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian providing medical nutrition therapy, told Verywell. Pay attention to which ingredients trigger a response, and study the ingredient lists of your foods before you eat them.
Avoid Certain Sugar Substitutes
Among the ingredients that tend to trigger people with IBS, certain sugar substitutes, namely those with sugar alcohols, can cause abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and other symptoms.
“Sugar alcohols (like sorbitol) have been tied to increased IBS symptoms, while other non-nutritive sweeteners have been found to alter the gut microbiome,” Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and diabetes specialist, told Verywell.
“Symptoms of IBS can be triggered not only by foods, but also by stress and anxiety,” Cassie Madsen, MS, RD, a registered dietitian specializing in gut health, told Verywell.
She explains that “IBS is a condition of the gut and the nervous system,” and keeping the nervous system calm can possibly help manage IBS symptoms just as effectively as dietary interventions can.
Follow the IBS Diet Basics
While every body is different and certain foods will trigger more people than others, Madsen advises that there are some basic diet tips that most people with IBS should follow, including:
- Limiting high fat foods
- Avoiding spicy foods
- Staying away from caffeine and alcohol
- Not skipping meals
- Drinking enough water
- Including sources of soluble fiber, like oats, and limiting insoluble fiber, like wheat bran