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What to eat if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Published on 11 May 2017 by Rakhi Choudhary, GP, updated on 11 May 2017
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common condition. The exact underlying cause of IBS is unknown. It is thought that multiple factors can contribute towards it, and it is due to the interaction between the nervous system in the bowels, and brain, emotional state and the immune system. The bowels are more sensitive to abdominal cramping. This can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, wind, diarrhoea and constipation. Symptoms tend to come and go. One of the ways of treating IBS is by making dietary changes.
Here are some tips on simple changes which can help with IBS:
Eat regular meals and don’t skip meals. Eat slowly and chew your food.
Try to find time to relax and do the things you enjoy, as stress can make IBS worse.
Regular exercise can help get the bowels moving, and reduce bloating.
Keep a food and symptom diary. This will allow you to indentify things that don’t suit you. It can also be useful to show this to your GP or dietician.
Surprisingly you should limit fruit to 3 portions a day. Large amounts of fruit can contribute to wind and bloating. It is better to make up your five a day with vegetables instead of the fruit. Also restrict yourself to only one glass of fruit juice a day.
Linseed and oats can help reduce symptoms of wind and bloating. Consider having porridge for breakfast. Linseed can be added to cereal, soups and yoghurts. Try to include one table spoon of linseed each day.
Reduce your intake of resistant starches - these are starches that are more difficult for the body to digest, and can cause gas. These include bran, green banana, oven chips, crisps, waffles, reheated bread, and processed pasta.
Cut down on fatty foods. Fats can be difficult for the body to absorb. Try to limit cakes, biscuits, and pastries. Use the minimal amount of oil when cooking. Try switching to lower fat yoghurts and sauces.
Avoid sorbitol. Sorbitol has a laxative effect on the colon. People with IBS may be more sensitive to the effects of sorbitol. It is often found in artificial sweetener, drinks, and gum, diabetic or slimming products. Drinks lots and lots of fluids, at least 8 cups a day! Avoid fizzy drinks and reduce the amount of caffeine you drink. Caffeine stimulates the bowels which can lead to more cramping. Limit tea and coffee to three cups a day. Try to reduce your alcohol intake, to no more than 2 units a day. Aim to have at least two alcohol free days each week.
If you have made dietary changes, but are still struggling with IBS symptoms, see your GP. Your GP can help give advice on what to eat or may suggest you see a dietician. They may also consider using drug therapy to help alleviate your symptoms.
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