Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a bit of a medical mystery. It produces a variety of unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and bloating without actually damaging the digestive tract. IBS has no known cause or cure, but changing your diet can ameliorate the symptoms. Different foods trigger different reactions in patients with IBS, so talk to the doctor about tailoring your diet to meet your needs.
An elimination diet is used to identify foods which trigger a flare-up. For people with IBS, the list of potential trigger foods is quite extensive. The University of Wisconsin recommends cutting all dairy, soy, gluten, high fructose corn syrup, eggs, nuts, shellfish, beef, pork and lamb out of your diet for two weeks. For the plan to work, you must read labels to ensure your diet is devoid of these items. After two weeks, introduce one of the banned foods back into your diet every three days. Keep a careful record of your symptoms so you can determine if one of the foods exacerbates your IBS symptoms.
The elimination diet is strict, but hopefully short-lived. All fruits and vegetables, some grains and a few proteins are permissible. For breakfast, you might have hot quinoa with fruit and herbal tea. For lunch, eat greens topped with shredded chicken or turkey. A baked potato with turkey cutlets and a vegetable is a filling, if simple, meal. Enjoy more fruits and vegetables for snacks as tolerated.
High-Fiber and Low-Fat
If constipation is your primary IBS symptom, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends a high-fiber, low-fat diet plan. Aim for 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Read food labels carefully and remember that whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and peas are usually the best sources of fiber. Greasy foods tend to trigger symptoms, so limit yourself to small quantities of healthy fats such as canola and olive oil and the high-fiber fruit, avocado.
Low-Fiber and Low-Residue
If you are in the middle of a diarrhea flare-up, a low-fiber, low-residue diet may be helpful. Low-residue simply means eating foods which are easy to digest such as cooked or very ripe fruit, cooked vegetables, refined grains instead of whole-grains and chicken, fish, meat and eggs. UPMC recommends avoiding common IBS trigger foods including coffee, chocolate, spicy foods and cruciferous vegetables while you are having diarrhea.