It’s estimated that between 25 and 45 million people are affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the United States alone, with women more likely to suffer from IBS than men. While IBS is not a serious disorder, it can affect a patient’s quality of life. Managing IBS has a lot to do with dietary and lifestyle changes. Eating the right foods and figuring out food triggers for a patient with IBS can be life-changing. Read on to learn more about IBS and some of the best and worst foods for IBS.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that affects the large intestine. It is a chronic condition for which there is no definitive cure, but many people with IBS find that a change in lifestyle and diet works to help keep symptoms at bay without using medication.
Irritable bowel syndrome is not a serious condition, but it can be an uncomfortable one and can affect patients’ quality of life when there is a flare-up. IBS is known as a functional GI disorder. These disorders, also known as disorders of the gut-brain interaction, are concerned with how your gut and brain interact together. The long-term outlook for IBS is good, provided the patient is compliant with diet and lifestyle changes.
Because the gut and brain are not working properly together, this can cause sensitivity in the digestive tract, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as diarrhea. Common symptoms of IBS include:
There are also several types of IBS, depending on the symptoms you describe to your team of healthcare professionals. These include:
If your gastroenterologist gives you an IBS diagnosis, it’s important to know what type. If it’s decided that medication is appropriate, only certain medicines will work with certain types of IBS.
IBS most commonly appears between the late teens and early 40s and is more common in women. Other risk factors include a family history of IBS, food intolerances, stress and anxiety, or a history of sexual or physical abuse.
Triggers for IBS are different for every individual. Those who eat the worst foods for IBS, such as high-FODMAP food, will likely have more flare-ups than those who are paying more attention to their triggers. Eating the right foods for IBS is imperative to help manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Elimination diets can help identify triggers. Patients may also want to adopt a gluten-free diet or lactose-free diet to monitor changes.
Diagnosis for IBS may require several different things. First, your physician will give you a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Then, you will discuss your symptoms with your physician. Because IBS symptoms and symptoms of more serious gastrointestinal disorders or similar, your doctor may want to order other tests to rule out other conditions. These may include X-rays, blood tests, and stool samples.
Depending on your symptoms, your gastroenterologist may order a colonoscopy. This diagnostic test can help diagnose colorectal cancer as well as many other diseases of the large intestine. While you do have to prep for the test by emptying your bowels, the test itself is a short, outpatient procedure, where you’ll receive anesthesia so you won’t be uncomfortable. The physician uses the colonoscope to look for diseases, if polyps are found, they can be removed during the procedure. The doctor will also likely take biopsies and tissue samples to be sent to the lab.
The best foods for IBS will be ones that are low in FODMAPs, which you will learn about below. People look at foods such as fruits, vegetables, and certain grains, thinking they’re eating healthy—however, in an IBS patient, some of these foods can trigger symptoms. Some of the best foods for IBS include:
Now, this is quite a long list, and it may take a while to remember which foods are low in FODMAPs. If you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, a good rule of thumb is to try several foods on this list at a time and slowly work your way up to all of the recommended foods. Just because it’s low in FODMAPs doesn’t necessarily mean it will agree with you.
Those with IBS can also consume bone north and fermented foods, which are loaded with probiotics.
Some other tips to manage IBS include:
When it comes to activity changes, it’s wise to exercise regularly, eat smaller meals at a sitting, try meditation or relaxation techniques, and quit smoking. Increased activity and exercise are also associated with fewer IBS flare-ups.
Consuming the worst foods for IBS can trigger flare-ups. Your doctor will likely suggest a low-FODMAP diet, but in general, these are the worst foods for IBS:
FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols,” which is quite a lot to remember. More generally, it refers to short-chain carbohydrates that are harder to digest. In those with IBS, eating a high-FODMAP diet can cause symptoms, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. If you receive an IBS diagnosis, your gastroenterologist will likely recommend the low-FODMAP diet.
Many of the low-FODMAP foods were already listed in the “best foods for IBS above,” but here’s another snapshot of what a FODMAP diet may look like:
Make sure that you talk with your gastroenterologist or a registered dietitian before beginning any new type of diet.
While food is a known trigger of IBS, no one knows exactly what causes it. Researchers believe it is attributed to a number of factors. One of the most common schools of thought is gut-brain dysfunction, but there may be other causes. A patient may have dysmotility, which means that there are problems with GI muscles, or visceral hypersensitivity, which means the nerves in the GI tract are oversensitive.
If you are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms that persist and are uncomfortable, such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, you should consult a gastroenterologist for a definitive diagnosis. Those symptoms are all associated with irritable bowel syndrome but could be indicative of other GI distress as well, so it’s important to talk to a professional. Schedule an appointment today, and our team of physicians and healthcare professionals will work together to help manage your symptoms, diagnose, and offer you quality and comprehensive treatment for all types of gastrointestinal disorders.