What is IBS?
IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – is a condition of the digestive system. It’s pretty common among much of the UK population, and for many, it tends to be a long-term condition which can have certain flare-ups following the consumption of certain foods. Symptoms can include bloating, distended belly, stomach cramps, gas, diarrhoea and/or constipation.
What causes IBS?
There can be a few different causes and triggers. However, it can be well controlled and managed if we know what the triggers are, so it’s these triggers we can all learn to manage. IBS is thought to be caused by physical problems with digestion and increased sensitivity of the gut. Triggers tend to be inflammatory foods, stress and emotions.
Here are some foods, emotions and situations which have been known to trigger IBS:
certain alcoholic drinks
processed, baked foods
bread and other wheat-based foods
processed fatty or fried food
garlic and onions
fibre and dietary fibre supplements
chemicals and colouring in foods
drinks that contain caffeine
emotions (high state of emotion – good or bad!)
There are MANY others and this is not exhaustive.
How Do We Manage Our Symptoms?
If you think – or know – you’ve got IBS, there’s lots you can do.
First of all: remember that IBS is very common. So despite the fact IBS can be very frustrating, upsetting, embarrassing and downright horrible. Know that you are not alone and plenty others are in the same position as you.
I would recommend you keep a food and stress diary for at least 3 weeks. Look at weekdays and weekend days too, as they may differ. This is great way to identify trigger foods and situations.
Here’s what you should note:
– what you ate/drank, what time
– how you felt immediately afterwards and an hour afterwards or a few hours after
– how much sleep you got, what time you went to bed and how you felt on waking
– your mood during the day
– negative emotions, what caused them, how did you cope
What Can I Eat On An IBS-Friendly Diet?
Learning what foods help your IBS is a massive part of managing it. It is likely to involve a bit of trial and error, and partly moving to a low FODMAP diet.
FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols”.
Basically these are types of foods which aren’t easily digested so tend to sit in the gut and ferment, causing some serious IBS related problems.
Try cutting them out of your diet and see how you feel (use your food and mood diary to help keep track).
Please note this is an overview of the FODMAP diet and is aimed as a starting place for you to go and do your own research.
High FODMAP food (things to avoid)
Vegetables and Legumes
- Baked beans
- Black eyed peas
- Broad beans
- Butter beans
- Kidney beans
- Mange Tout
- Savoy Cabbage
- Soy beans
- Split peas
- Scallions and spring onions
- Plums and prunes
- Tinned fruit in apple / pear juice
Cereals, Grains, Breads, Biscuits, Pasta, Nuts and Cakes
- Products containing wheat (read the label) including pasta, breads, cereal, rolls
- Egg or udon noodles
- Regular noodles
- Bran cereals
Sauces, Sweets, Sweeteners and Spreads
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Ketchup / Tomato sauce
- Milk chocolate
- Sugar free sweets containing polyols (check the label – anything ending in -ol or isomalt)
Prebiotic Foods (these can be ingredients in yoghurts, snacks, bars etc)
- FOS – fructooligosaccharides
- Dandelion tea
- Orange juice
- Sodas/fizzy drinks with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Soy milk made with soy beans
- Sports drinks (very sugary)
- Wine (sad but true! A glass here and there is fine, but don’t overdo it as you will likely feel the consequences)
- Cream cheese
- Ice cream
- Milk (cow, goat and sheep)
- Sour cream
- Yoghurt and Greek yogurt
You may also want to moderate the amount of fibre in your diet. Don’t cut it out completely, but see how much your tummy can tolerate.
Recommended intake is 25-30g. Start slowly when increasing intake.
Other Tips To Manage IBS:
As well as eating a FODMAP-free diet (see the list above), here are some other steps you can take to really help take control and manage your IBS.
- Smaller, regular meals, and eat slowly.
- Lots of water and non-caffeinated teas (at least 2 litres a day).
- No more than two coffees or caffeine-drinks per day.
- Being brave enough to ask about the menu/ingredients at restaurants, cafes and dinner parties.
Getting enough sleep and getting to bed at a consistent time. – CRITICAL!
So try to look after yourself, manage stress, stay happy and treat your body well. And if IBS does strike, try to chill out and let your body get itself better.