Other Dietary Strategies to Help with IBS Symptoms
These are additional tips for alleviating IBS symptoms. Not everyone needs to follow all of them but you may find a few that “hit the spot” for you.
1. Eat regular meals. Eating regular meals and one or two snacks a day will prevent you from getting too hungry and eating too much at one sitting, which could lead to a higher FODMAP load. Avoid grazing, however, to allow your GI tract to get cleaned up and ready for the next meal.
2. Avoid high-fat meals. This refers mostly to fried foods, fast foods, or very-high fat meals (for example, burger with cheese and fries). High-fat loads may trigger symptoms such as abdominal pain and or distention, bloating, increased gas and loose stools in some people with IBS.
3. Avoid or Limit Caffeine intake. This is especially important for IBS-Diarrhea. Caffeine is a stimulant and can lead to more frequent bowel movements or irritate your gut and cause indigestion and abdominal pain. However, if you have IBS-Constipation and know caffeine does not bother you, you may take advantage of its stimulant properties to help you with your bowel movements. Read my guide to caffeinated beverages.
4. Avoid or Limit Alcohol. Alcohol may trigger symptoms in up to one third of IBS patients and can either lead to diarrhea or constipation. If you know alcohol does not affect your symptoms, you may continue to drink moderate amounts of low FODMAP alcoholic beverages.
5. Avoid swallowing extra air. This means avoiding carbonated drinks (water, soda, alcoholic beverages), drinking from a straw, and chewing gum. The extra air gets trapped in your gut and may lead to extra gas and bloating.
6. Limit or avoid spicy foods. Food such as chili peppers and chili/cayenne powders contain capsaicin, a natural ingredient which produces a spicy effect and can trigger heartburn and/or abdominal pain in some people with IBS.
7. Eat the right fiber. With the help of a dietitian trained in FODMAPs, make sure you eat enough (or not too much) fiber and add a fiber supplement if needed. You may need more soluble (think oatmeal) or insoluble (whole grains) fiber, depending on your IBS subtype (diarrhea, constipation, or mixed). Avoid fibers that have high fermentability (inulin, wheat bran) as they cause bloating and excess gas.
8. Don’t eat in a hurry or on the run. Find a time to devote to your meals when you can eat without other distractions or stressors and enjoy your food. This will give you time to eat slowly, and chew well. Chewing is the first step of digestion (yes, it does start in the mouth!) and it’s important to chew your food well and mix it with enough saliva which contains enzymes that start digesting your food.