What Should You Eat When You Have IBS?

Reviewed on 8/24/2020

What Is Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

Depending on what symptoms your irritable bowel syndrome causes, doctors recommend different diets. A low FODMAP diet is an example, as well as high- and low-fiber diets.
Depending on what symptoms your irritable bowel syndrome causes, doctors recommend different diets. A low FODMAP diet is an example, as well as high- and low-fiber diets.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that describes a group of symptoms such as abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, increased gas, bloating (distention), cramping, and food intolerance

Irritable bowel syndrome is considered a "functional" disorder, which means changes in the functioning of the digestive system cause the collection of symptoms referred to as IBS. IBS is a problem with the movement (motility) of the digestive tract rather than damage to the tissues of the digestive system. 

IBS is not the same as colitis or Crohn’s disease, which is a group of separate conditions also referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

What Is an IBS Diet?

There are a number of diet plans for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

IBS patients usually need to identify foods that trigger their symptoms and avoid those foods. A food diary can often help patients figure out which foods trigger symptoms.

What Should You Eat When You Have IBS?

In general, patients with IBS may find it helpful to drink plenty of water, increase dietary fiber, and eat smaller meals to reduce cramping and diarrhea. Fiber supplements may also help some patients. 

An irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diet may also involve limiting foods commonly known to contain ingredients that can stimulate the intestines and cause diarrhea, such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Soda and other carbonated beverages 
  • Dairy products 
  • Fatty foods
  • Fried foods
  • Foods high in sugar
  • Artificial sweeteners (such as sorbitol and xylitol)
  • Chewing gum
  • Certain vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) and legumes (beans) 
  • Nuts

SLIDESHOW

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions See Slideshow

Diets for Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  1. High fiber diet
    • A high fiber diet can help relieve constipation in people who have IBS, but it may worsen symptoms such as bloating and gas. 
    • Fiber intake should be increased gradually to reduce symptoms of gas and bloating and help ease constipation
  2. Low fiber diet
    • During an IBS flare when symptoms are worse, a low fiber diet may help relieve some symptoms, including diarrhea. 
    • During flares, reduce consumption of raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
    • Eat foods that are well cooked. 
    • Binding foods such as oats, applesauce, and potatoes may help ease symptoms.
  3. Elimination diet (Low FODMAP diet)
    • FODMAP refers to a group of short-chain carbohydrates (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) that are not well absorbed in the small intestine and are quickly fermented by gut bacteria. 
    • The gut bacteria produce gas that can contribute to IBS symptoms. 
    • A Low FODMAP Diet is also called the Elimination Diet because patients eliminate foods high in FODMAPs. 
    • The lists of foods both high and low in FODMAPs are extensive. 
    • Talk a doctor or nutritionist to find out what foods to eat and foods to avoid on a FODMAP/elimination diet. 
  4. Gluten free diet
    • Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. 
    • Avoiding gluten may help patients with IBS who also have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. 
  5. Low fat diet
    • Low fat, high carbohydrate foods such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and whole-grain breads may help ease symptoms during an IBS flare (except in patients who also have celiac disease).

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Reviewed on 8/24/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference