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IBS and food mistakes making it worse

The Mayo Clinic classifies Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an intestinal disorder. The exact cause of IBS isn’t well understood, and there is no specific test used to determine if you suffer from it. However, a diagnosis can often be made based on symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle and stress. Others will need medication and counseling. Diet has a huge advantage in allowing IBS patients to live life as normal as possible.

Certain foods trigger an immune reaction within the body, which result in negative symptoms when eaten. Most IBS patients do not tolerate beef, pork, lamb, soybeans, wheat or dairy. Avoiding consumption of these foods for an extended period of time will allow your digestive system to rest, which usually relieves the symptoms they are causing.

Knowing what types of caffeine exacerbate your symptoms is also important. Coffee is a major gut stressor for patients with IBS. Coffee causes your stomach to produce more stomach acid, which then increases your heartburn symptoms. It also increases activity in the colon, which can often cause diarrhea. It’s not uncommon for IBS sufferers to run to the restroom (and be there for a while) after a cup of coffee. Getting caffeine from sources other than coffee usually improves IBS symptoms.

IBS is generally accompanied by inflammation of the intestines. The inflammation makes it difficult to absorb nutrients from the food you eat. As a result, sugar and carbohydrates make IBS symptoms worse while in this inflamed state. Sugars to be aware of as major offenders that cause severe stomach cramping and other IBS symptoms are: table sugar; fructose in fruit; lactose in milk; high-fructose corn syrup found in packaged sweets; and sugar substitutes, such as sorbitol, erythritol and xylitol, which are also huge triggers of abdominal cramping. A safer sugar substitute is liquid stevia, however be aware that dextrose is added many times in the powdered form, which can also cause stomach cramping in IBS patients.

Finally, eating too much fiber (or on the flip side not enough) is something that is important to understand about your body. For this reason, fiber is a critical nutrient to get right if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS or suffer from IBS-like symptoms. For example, if you suffer from IBS diarrhea symptoms, you’ll want to eat lower fiber and easier to digest foods during this time. A large salad loaded with raw vegetables, while generally super healthy, will usually make things worse for an IBS patient. And as noted above, you won’t even get the full benefit of the healthy nutrients in the salad because of your inability to absorb nutrients due to inflammation. Something along the lines of roasted root vegetables with sweet potatoes is nourishing yet easy to digest.

IBS can be a debilitating disorder that can last a lifetime. However, stay hopeful as the right nutrition plan coupled with stress management can allow you to live years (I know because my clients do) without any episodes of diarrhea, stomach cramping, constipation or heart burn. Removing the irritating foods is half the battle, but repairing the intestinal lining is what will ensure success with fewer to no IBS episodes.

Learn more about managing IBS in this interview with Fran from Radiant Health Café: https://bit.ly/IBSFoods.

Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, specializing in using digestive wellness to prevent or manage chronic disease. She has a master’s degree in nutrition, is a personal health coach, speaker, and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 970-444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.