Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that affects around 10-15% of adults. Common symptoms include chronic, recurrent bowel problems, flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea.
Living with IBS can be both physically and emotionally draining. Although it is incurable, there are ways to better manage symptoms and reduce the impact IBS has on health and well-being.
We explore six simple diet tips that can help:
Identify your triggers
Key to managing IBS is being aware of your triggers. Figuring out what foods and lifestyle choices work for you, and which ones cause problems, can help you gain a sense of control. Keep a food diary to log where flare-ups occur to identify causes.
Eat smaller meals
Large meals can upset your gut as they take longer to digest. If you have IBS, instead of eating three main meals a day, you may find it beneficial to eat five smaller portions. Take your time to eat your food and consider taking probiotic supplements to help restore the balance of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut.
Monitor your fruit and veg intake
If you have IBS, you may find eating fruit and vegetables can make symptoms worse. To prevent this, try to avoid eating the skins and pips, and limit your intake of gassy fruit and vegetables such as apples, sweetcorn and beans.
Opt for white bread and pasta
Whole grain bread, cereals, pasta and rice are generally considered the healthy option, but for IBS sufferers this is not necessarily the case. This is because whole grain foods contain a high fibre content, which encourages the movement of food through the digestive system. If diarrhoea is one of your main IBS symptoms, choose white bread and pasta over whole grain options.
Avoid fatty foods and limit sugar
Foods high in fat and sugar will put pressure on the gut and exacerbate symptoms of IBS. This is because they can be difficult to digest. Aim to bake and steam food when cooking and avoid eating large quantities of chocolate, biscuits and other sugary, processed foods.
Limit dairy products
Dairy can exacerbate symptoms of IBS. If you find dairy particularly difficult to digest, you need to speak to a medical professional who will be able to identify whether you have a lactose intolerance. If you limit your consumption of dairy, make sure you keep your calcium intake up by using milk alternatives such as lactose-free, soya or rice milk.