For individuals with IBS, eating a bowl of ice cream can lead to more than just a stomach ache… IBS can force you to have to make dramatic lifestyle changes and can affect your ability to engage in social activities with friends. But what if we told you that medicine is not the only way to manage your IBS?
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a relatively common gastrointestinal disorder that is caused in the large intestine. This chronic health condition is characterized by a group of symptoms including repeated pain in your abdomen, changes in your bowel movements, which includes diarrhea, constipation, or both.
IBS is thought to be a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which relates to the gut-brain connection. Research has pointed to a strong link between the interactions of the gut and the brain. Chemical messengers and hormones carry messages between the brain and the gut, which cause you to feel sensations like hunger, fullness, and discomfort in your gut.
Additional symptoms of IBS include:
- the feeling that you haven’t finished a bowel movement
- whitish mucus in your stool
Although IBS can be painful, no evidence points to this GI disorder leading to other health problems or damage to your digestive tract.
The causes of IBS are unclear and there is no current cure for this disorder; however, it is possible to live a normal life with IBS.
Knowing foods that make your body feel good and don’t flare IBS can be the key to navigating this GI disorder without medicine. Typically, low-FODMAP foods are recommended for those with IBS. FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. These carbs are ones that may not be digested or absorbed well by the bacteria in your gut. These undigested carbohydrates are metabolized by intestinal bacteria, which leads to excess gas production, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation.
Foods that flare IBS
- Lactose - Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products like milk and other soft dairy products like cottage cheese, cream cheese, ice cream and sour cream. Try replacing lactose-containing dairy products with plant-based alternatives like soy or rice milk. Lactose-free dairy products also exist; keep your eye out for brands like Lactaid. Pure Plates offers many dairy-free alternatives like their dairy-free coconut fudge bars.
- Fruit - fruit sugars, called fructose, can agitate IBS symptoms. Fruits high in fructose include apples and pears, and is somewhat high in watermelon, stone fruits, concentrated fruit, dried fruit and fruit juice. Instead, try these low fructose fruits: banana, blueberry, boysenberry, cantaloupe, cranberry, grape, orange, lemon, lime, kiwi and strawberry.
- Vegetables - certain veggies can worsen your IBS like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, coleslaw and sauerkraut. Additionally, limit artichoke, brussels sprouts, onions, shallots, leeks and asparagus. Some low-FODMAP veggies include eggplant, green beans, celery, carrots, spinach, sweet potato, yam, zucchini and squash. Pure Plates offers a vegetarian side menu where those following a low-FODMAP diet can choose foods that meet their lifestyle.
- Beans and Legumes - these foods are high in indigestible carbohydrates that produce excess gas in the large intestine. Limit your beans and legumes, like peanuts, lentils, and soybeans. Quinoa, oats, and polenta are IBS-friendly!
- Artificial sweeteners - sugar alcohols like sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, maltitol and xylitol can flare your IBS so it is important to check the nutrition facts label for these ingredients! Pure Plates limits use of artificial and added sugars and focuses on natural sugars that therefore won’t flare up your gut. We recommend trying snacks with natural sugar sources!
Foods that help manage IBS
- Poultry and fish - Lean meats are generally a better choice over high-fat meats and are especially good for those with IBS! Try salmon or lean chicken breast.
- Cooked vegetables - Cooked vegetables are easier to digest than raw ones. You should still keep in mind which vegetables are low-FODMAP (that we mentioned above) and try cooking those!
- Grains - Gluten-free oats and brown rice are typically better for those with IBS and provide soluble fiber, which can help regulate bowel movements.
- Egg whites - Eggs are an excellent source of protein and don’t typically agitate IBS symptoms.
Additional ways to manage IBS
Although following an IBS-friendly diet is crucial to managing your symptoms, there are additional ways to mitigate your IBS.
- Use a meal delivery service that has low-FODMAP food options
- Try a food journal to keep track of what you ate and what foods flared your symptoms
- Stress management is important in controlling your gut-brain connection. Identify points of stress in your life and work to create a positive environment for yourself. Try setting routines for yourself, stick to a similar bedtime every night, talk to someone/try therapy, or surround yourself with positive people.
- Exercise - Moving your body is important to living a healthy and balanced lifestyle and can also help manage or ease symptoms of IBS.
- Probiotics - give probiotic supplements a try; research has pointed to positive interactions for those with IBS.
The bottom line…
Although IBS can seem overwhelming and out of your control, there is a way to live in harmony with your gut through food! Pure Plates makes following a low-FODMAP diet easier by providing you with plenty of nutritious and delicious options to choose from. Balancing a low-FODMAP diet along with exercise and stress management can help you not only mitigate your IBS, but live a happy and healthy life. Talk to an RD or your healthcare provider about your IBS and supplemental ways to manage it.