For many people, prudent choices in the food they eat can help alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Food is a well known trigger for triggering and worsening the symptoms of IBS.
Keeping a Food Diary
Before changing your diet, however, maintain a journal for every meal that you eat for at least several weeks, and record the date, time, and foods that you eat during the day along with the duration and severity of any IBS symptoms that arise.
With this journal, a doctor or dietitian may be able to note a pattern to the triggering and worsening the symptoms of IBS, allowing you to change your diet and avoid the symptoms. For example,, if dairy products cause your IBS symptoms to flare up, then you could try eating less of those foods.
However, dairy products are an important source of calcium and other nutrients, so if you reduce your intake of these, then you need to ensure that you get adequate nutrients in the foods you substitute, or else take supplements.
You might be able to tolerate yogurt better than other dairy products because it contains bacteria that supply the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk products. So, eating yogurt may help you better deal with the dairy products in your diet.
Drinking six to eight glasses of plain water a day is important, especially if you have diarrhea. The water your body loses needs to be replaced.
Drinking carbonated beverages, such as fizzy drinks and sodas, may result in gas which can cause discomfort and trigger other symptoms of IBS. Chewing gum and eating too quickly can lead to swallowing air, which also leads to gas. To avoid or reduce the symptoms of IBS, avoid foods and eating habits that cause gas.
Large meals can cause cramping and diarrhea and place additional stress on the colon. Eating smaller meals more often, or eating smaller portions, may help reduce the severity of the symptoms of IBS and also reduce the frequency at which these symptoms occur.
Eating meals that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, whole-grain breads and cereals (unless you have Celiac Disease), fruits, and vegetables can help.
Fiber is useful in maintaining colonic and digestive health. However, the amount of fiber in the western diet has been decreasing due to the consumption of higher proportions of highly processed, low-fiber foods.
There are 2 types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble means it dissolves in liquid. Soluble fiber helps both diarrhea and constipation. Whereas, insoluble fiber may make diarrhea worse.
Insoluble fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals.
Psyllium (a natural vegetable fiber) and oat bran are examples of soluble fibers. Oat bran is found in some cereals, bread, and muffins.
A good strategy is to increase the fiber in your diet slowly, so that you can monitor the effects and stop, change, or reduce the fiber if your symptoms become worse.
In many cases, dietary fiber may decrease the severity and frequency of some IBS symptoms, particularly constipation. However, it may not help with lowering pain or decreasing diarrhea. High-fiber diets keep the colon mildly distended, which may help prevent spasms. Some forms of fiber help keep water in the stool, thereby preventing hard stools that are difficult to pass.
Dieticians often recommend a diet which has just enough fiber to produce soft bowel movements which don’t cause any pain. High-fiber or diets that contain increased fiber can cause bloating and gas, although some people report that these symptoms abate after a few weeks as your digestive system adjusts to the new high fiber diet. Increasing fiber intake by 2 to 3 grams per day can usually help reduce the risk of increased gas and bloating.
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