Oatmeal & IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a health condition affecting up to 20 percent of Americans, according to 2007 information from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The condition causes symptoms of abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. In many cases, alterations in diet are an effective way to control IBS. One health food you may want to consider if you have IBS is oatmeal, although not all people with the condition benefit from it. If you have IBS, ask your doctor if oatmeal might be right for you.

Oatmeal can be a good breakfast choice for some people with IBS. (Image: Mizina/iStock/Getty Images)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The exact causes of IBS are unknown. The condition often involves changes in intestinal motility, meaning the intestines either move foods through too fast or too slow, causing diarrhea or constipation. Certain foods, hormone levels and stress appear to play a factor in determining the severity of IBS symptoms, explains MayoClinic.com. In many cases, restricting intake of trigger foods and eating other healthy foods may help control IBS.

Fiber and IBS

Fiber has a complex relationship with IBS. Generally, high fiber foods can help ease the symptoms of IBS. Eating lots of fiber tends to expand the intestines, which can help prevent the spasms and cramping that often causes pain in people with IBS, the Linus Pauling Institute explains. Fiber also generally promotes bowel movements and can help prevent constipation associated with IBS. However, for patients who frequently experience diarrhea as a result of IBS, eating large amounts of fiber can make symptoms worse.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one food you can eat to increase your intake of fiber. One cup of oatmeal provides about 4 g of soluble fiber. The soluble fiber in oatmeal turns into a thick, gel-like substance in the intestines. Some patients with IBS experience a reduction in IBS symptoms from eating oatmeal, while others may experience increased symptoms.

Recommendations

Because responses to foods like oatmeal can vary among those with IBS, the only way to determine whether or not you might benefit from including it in your diet is to experiment. A helpful approach may be to gradually increase the amount of oatmeal and other fiber-rich foods you consume over the span of a week or two. If your symptoms improve, keep eating oatmeal. If your symptoms worsen, you may need to avoid it.

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