Have you seen the movie, Along Came Polly, starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston? Can you remember the scene where they were eating in an Indian restaurant and Ben Stiller was sweating profusely? By the time they got to Polly’s apartment, Stiller was determined to let it all out, even if it means messing up Polly’s bathroom.
It turns out that he has irritable bowel syndrome and the Indian food he ate worsened his condition. Almost everyone could have that Ben Stiller moment, just like in the movies. However, irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is no laughing matter. Here are some important things you should know about this condition, the foods you need to avoid at all costs, and diet tips to help you feel better.
Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a long-term condition of the digestive system characterized by stomach cramps, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea.
However, symptoms vary from person to person, with some severely affected than the others.
The exact cause of IBS is still unknown. According to most experts, this condition is due to increased sensitivity of the gut and issues with food digestion. There is also a possibility that food passes through the gut either too slow or too quick. Aside from this, stress is another trigger for this condition.
If you are wondering if irritable bowel syndrome can be treated, the answer is no. Up to this date, there is still no cure for IBS. However, you can make changes to your lifestyle and food choices in order to manage the symptoms of this condition. By managing food choices, this means avoiding any of the foods below:
1. Insoluble Fiber
Fiber is an important part of everyone’s diet. It keeps you feel fuller longer and ensures your weight is at bay. There are two kinds of fiber you need to watch out for – insoluble and soluble fiber. Between the two, insoluble fiber is something you must avoid at all costs.
Insoluble fiber from whole grains, cereals, and bran could aggravate diarrhea and increase your trips in the bathroom. Products with wheat, rye, and barley could also worsen the symptoms of IBS. While insoluble fiber could relieve you from constipation, it is best to stay away from them to reduce the feeling of bloating.
More importantly, focus on soluble fiber.
When you were younger, your mom always told you to drink milk for stronger bones and better health. If you have IBS, then you might not enjoy the benefits of this calcium-rich drink.
First, milk contains fat, the diarrhea-trigger kind of fat. Second, most IBS patients are also lactose intolerant. This means your system is unable to digest lactose in most milk products. There is also a higher chance you will stay inside the bathroom doing you-know-what.
You can still take milk and other dairy products. Just switch to low or non-fat alternatives to minimize the symptoms of IBS. Soymilk could also be another alternative in case you want to try dairy.
Insoluble fiber is a known trigger for IBS patients. However, there are other types of grains, which could cause problems in your stomach. Examples of these are products with gluten. Any food products with rye, barley, and wheat contain gluten, a type of protein, which damages your intestines and worsen your IBS symptoms.
That’s not all. At least half of those who have IBS are also gluten-intolerant. This means it could be difficult for your body to process anything with gluten and worsen your condition.
Thankfully, there are tons of gluten-free products and alternatives available in the market. Check out your local store for gluten-free ingredients in case you are craving for cakes, pizza, and pasta.
You know how the saying goes. The more you eat beans, the more it makes you gassy.
Beans are generally good food. It is an excellent source of protein and fiber, which are good for your health.
For IBS sufferers, eating beans could spell nightmare, bathroom nightmare. This is because beans increase gas, cramps and bloating.
Can you remember the joke about the wife who loves to eat beans? Her husband surprised her on her birthday with all their friends waiting in the living room. Unfortunately, she had too much beans and decided to give it a go, thinking that she is alone. You don’t want to be that wife, do you? If you have IBS, beans are something you need to avoid, or at least eat in small quantities.
A cup of Joe in the morning may be your instant pick-me-upper and get you moving. However, this may not be the cause if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
Coffee and other caffeinated drinks have stimulating effects on the intestine, which can get things move smoothly inside your body. For those who have IBS, this could be problematic and could make you miss the morning bus.
If you need something to perk you up, try a morning jog, a quick walk in the park, or a slice of banana.
6. Fizzy, Sweetened Drinks
Aside from caffeinated drinks, fizzy and sweetened drinks are also off-limits if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
Think about this. Beverages full of air bubbles such as carbonated drinks and beer could add more gas to your digestive system.
Consequently, fructose, a main ingredient in most sweetened drinks, could also make you gassy. This could spell disaster, especially if you are out on a date with someone for the first time.
In case you insist on drinking carbonated drinks, make sure to get rid of the straw since this could make you swallow more air and add up to the gassy feeling.
7. Fried Foods
Who doesn’t want fried foods? Growing up, you had your fair share of fried chicken, nuggets, and fries in the dining table. It is also part of the American diet so how can you say no to it. Unfortunately, it could spell trouble for your stomach. If you are trying to make an impression, then stay away from fried foods as well.
Fried foods mean high in fat content. This could be hard on your system and cause more bloating and cramping.
Still, this doesn’t mean you cannot eat anything friend. The key here is moderation. You might also consider other methods such as baking, steaming, and grilling for healthier options.
When it comes to the healthiest foods, broccoli will always be part of the list. It is rich in fiber and a good source of protein, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron, and thiamin among others.
No matter how good broccoli’s intentions were, you need to stay away from this if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
Broccoli, together with other gas-producing vegetables such as onions, garlic, beans, and cauliflower could cause uncomfortable gas and painful stomach attacks. Since broccoli is high in fiber, it also softens and bulks the stool to make it easier to pass.
Instead of eating it raw, cooking and steaming broccoli are your best options when eating this veggie.
You already know that there are gas-producing vegetables, which could worsen your IBS condition. Did you know that cabbage is one of them?
Cabbage is a coniferous vegetable, which is high in fiber and make bowel movements easier and more comfortable. This means it is likely to cause gas when you constantly include it in your diet and could lead to painful stomach issues. That’s not all. Being a coniferous veggie, cabbage causes inflammation, which could result in painful gas pain.
This doesn’t mean you can no longer eat cabbage and other coniferous vegetables. Steaming the cabbage instead of eating it raw could help minimize IBS symptoms.
10. Green and Red Peppers
Spicy foods are a big no-no if you have irritable bowel syndrome. In case you love peppers and anything spicy, maybe this could be a good reason why you need to look for an alternative, if any.
Experts agree that both red and green pepper could be difficult to digest, especially for those with IBS. You experience gas pain, discomfort in the lower abdomen, and abdominal cramping.
Don’t even get started with alternating diarrhea and constipation and loose bowels after eating pepper.
Surprised? Don’t be. Sure, corn is high in fiber and makes you feel full longer. However, it is also rich in sugar and that can contribute to painful bloating.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, corn is among the harder to digest foods, which could aggravate the symptoms of IBS. However, there are IBS patients who find it beneficial for them to eat insoluble fiber such as corn bran.
If you are unsure, list some of the trigger foods that always seem to make you have to go to the bathroom immediately after eating them. If corn is one of the trigger foods, higher processed corn products could be an alternative.
Most IBS sufferers will agree with this: lentils are among their biggest trigger foods. This means when you eat lentils, you will experience bloating, the passing of gas, and stomach pain, among other things.
What could be the reason?
Just like coniferous vegetables, lentils are difficult to digest. They are part of the gas-inducing food, which could spell trouble during dates. There are also IBS patients who experience inflammation and discomfort after eating this legume.
Admit it. Your sandwich will never be complete without butter in it. Unfortunately, butter and other fatty foods could cause unpleasant symptoms if you have irritable bowel syndrome.
While butter has its defining moments, too much of this can aggravate the symptoms of IBS such as bloating, gas, inflammation, and cramps. Cooking coniferous vegetables with butter could also spell chaos in your stomach.
Diet Tips for IBS Sufferers
The fact is, IBS is not only embarrassing, but it could also be downright painful and difficult to deal with for many people. There is still much to learn about the disease, and to this day, experts are still trying to uncover more about IBS, in order to find a solution to this issue. However, one thing is for sure: what you eat could affect your condition.
To tailor your eating patterns and habits with IBS, here are some of the things you can do.
- Eat on a Regular Schedule. Skipping meals and going through long gaps without eating makes it easier for your digestive system to fill up with extra air. This could lead to bloating and cramping. Therefore, eat on regular schedule. Have breakfast during your first hour of the day and have meals every three to four hours after.
- Have a Well-Balanced Diet. Good nutrition is important to allow your digestive system to function properly. At the same time, eating unhealthy food means extra stress on your system. Stick to a balanced, healthy diet at all times.
- Keep Yourself Hydrated. Aim for up to eight glasses of water every day. Water replenishes your body and keeps things moving inside. Plus, it comes with tons of health benefits as well.
- Consider Soluble Fiber. Experts are divided on the effects of fiber for IBS sufferers. However, some studies show that soluble fiber could ease the symptoms of IBS and lower one’s cholesterol. Try psyllium and fiber from oat bran, nuts, barley, seeds and peas.
- Eat in Modest Portions. No matter how tempting it is, eat in modest portions at all times. Do not overindulge to minimize digestive distress, diarrhea, and cramping. Consequently, chew your food well. This allows your body to digest it easily and avoid gulping of air.
- Keep a Food Diary. There are certain foods, which could aggravate the symptoms of IBS. Start a food diary to keep track of what you eat and how you feel after. There might be other foods, which trigger the symptoms aside from what was mentioned. Hence, it is best to keep track of those foods to avoid issues in the future.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a lifelong condition. You can go on for months without any symptoms while there will be bad days for flare-ups.
This could also have a negative impact in your emotional state and overall quality of life.
However, keep this in mind: you are stronger than your condition. Take note of food triggers, get rid of stress, and stick to a healthy, balanced diet. You won’t even notice that you have IBS.