It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in North America suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS occurs when muscle contractions in the digestive tract become irregular and uncoordinated. These uncoordinated movements interfere with the removal of toxins and waste, and leads to an accumulation of gas and stool in the digestive tract. Sounds painful doesn't it?
IBS can be extremely painful. It comes with a variety of symptoms from abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and flatulence, to anorexia, food intolerances, mucus accumulation and bloating. Does this sound like you? Visit your medical practitioner and find out if you have IBS.
Suffering from IBS? These are my top 5 dietary suggestions and why.
There are A LOT of ways you can help with IBS from diet alone. Know that removing or changing your diet in one go is unrealistic. I've listed dietary recommendations in order of importance (in my opinion) so you can begin to do what is best for you, one step at a time.
1. Increase your water intake
Water helps break down food, it hydrates the body, it helps improve the absorption of important vitamins and minerals, and we need it to survive! Water is AWESOME. If you are suffering from IBS you are more likely to be dehydrated. Drink more water. Aim for 2-3L daily! I mean it!!
2. Eat your greens with every meal
Add more fibre into your diet with fruits and vegetables. Incorporate them with every single meal. For breakfast, add spinach to your smoothies or an apple with your toast. For lunch, make a stir fry with tons of vegetables, or add sprouts and greens to your sandwich. Dinner? Have your protein, your starch, and your VEGGIES! Fibre is essential to supporting those with IBS. It helps to remove toxins and waste out of the body and cleans the intestinal tract. When you increase your fibre you need to increase your water intake. They go hand in hand!
3. Take a probiotic
Your digestive tract is swollen, sore, and a trap for bad bacteria. Have a history of antibiotic use? You probably don't have enough good bacteria to help you digest your food, fight off the bad guys, keep you from getting sick... you get the picture. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria our gut needs in order to digest food, absorb nutrients, boost our immunity, and the list goes on. Introduce a probiotic into your everyday routine. Your body will thank you. I recommend Natural Factors probiotics to my clients.
4. Remove dairy
Dairy can be mucus forming. If you find you have mucus in your stools or feel phlegmy in the mornings, dairy may be one of the culprits to blame. Not to mention, dairy contributes to inflammation in the digestive tract. This is NOT ideal for someone with IBS because the digestive tract is already inflamed. Begin to remove dairy from the diet and see how you feel.
5. Remove gluten AND/OR introduce more whole grains
Like dairy, gluten contributes to inflammation. It is difficult for us to digest, and with those suffering from IBS you may notice you feel awful after consuming gluten. Bloating, flatulence, constipation, and pain may all be associated with gluten intake. Know that not everyone will feel equally awful on gluten. Regardless of whether you tolerate gluten or not, begin incorporating more whole grains into the diet like brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, teff, amaranth, and the list continues. Visit my blog post on whole grains and how to cook them HERE.
Don't overwhelm yourself. Do what is feasible for you and support your body through IBS. Change is tough, but living with symptoms of IBS long-term is tougher. If you are suffering from IBS and want to learn more on how to deal with IBS specifically for you, contact me for inquiries on individual nutritional consultations.