Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Foods to Avoid When Dealing with IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome is a debilitating disease that can result in pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Also known as spastic colon, IBS most often strikes those who have recently recovered from an infection or recently experienced a traumatic life event.

This embarrassing condition is something that afflicts nearly 15 percent of Americans, according to a 2005 study, with women about two to three times more likely to experience IBS than men.

Although there are medications available to treat the symptoms of IBS, addressing the disease itself requires serious dietary changes. Specifically, it is critical to avoid any foods that may cause irritation. Here are just a few kinds of foods that IBS patients would be wise to avoid.

Red Meat Bad For IBS: Nix the Steak and Have the Chicken Instead

Bad news for steak lovers: one of the worst foods for someone with IBS is red meat. Although red meats like steak and lamb can be extremely satisfying dishes when well prepared, they’re also prime bowel irritants. The stomach and intestines have significant difficulty digesting red meat, which can aggravate your IBS.

However, that’s not the only danger of eating red meat. An extremely high intake of red meat has also been linked to colon cancer, according to a 2011 study by French researchers. The next time you’re looking for a great main dish, skip the braised lamb shank and try a moist chicken breast or a tender fish fillet.

IBS Diet: Coffee, Soda, and Alcohol Can Wreak Havoc on Your Intestines

Are you someone who enjoys a regular morning pick-me-up? How about a relaxing glass of wine after a long day of work? If you frequently indulge in high-caffeine or high-alcohol drinks, you may be giving your digestive system more than it can handle.

Drinks like coffee, beer, or even a carbonated soda can be extremely rough on even a healthy digestive system. As a stimulant, caffeine can shock the GI system into a series of painful contractions. It also contributes to dehydration, which can cause diarrhea to become much worse.

Carbonated beverages can cause a gas buildup, which is often painful. Additionally, many carbonated beverages contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, which is known to cause digestive distress – even in healthy individuals.

Alcoholic beverages act as a one-two punch to your digestive system. The alcohol can cause irritation along your GI tract, resulting in discomfort and pain. Alcohol and caffeine will also dehydrate you, which can make your symptoms worse. Keep the coffee and beer for guests and opt for a non-caffeinated herbal tea instead.

Cruciferous Vegetables: Cabbage Is Not Your Friend

Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts have several great nutrients that can do your body well, but they are also extremely high in non-soluble fiber – especially when raw. Excessive fiber intake can contribute to IBS-related diarrhea, as well as bloating and gas. If your diet includes a lot of these cruciferous vegetables, it may be time to consider reevaluating where you get your Vitamin A.

Before you jump off the vegetable bandwagon entirely, though, you may want to try modifying how you prepare your vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables can be eaten either raw or cooked. Cooking these veggies, like cabbage, for example, makes them easier to digest. If you’re brave enough to risk the possibility of pain, you may find that boiling these vegetables enables your body to tolerate them. Try a small amount at first, and if you don’t encounter any problems, gradually increase your intake of cooked vegetables.

IBS Treatment: Enzymes, Probiotics, and Chia

Although avoiding foods like coffee, red meat and cabbage can improve your IBS symptoms, it’s also important to ensure you take proactive steps to promote a healthy digestive system. There are a variety of different dietary supplements that can keep your body digesting food the way it should. Certain enzymes, probiotics and seeds have been proven to rebalance your digestive system in a way that reduces stomach acid, calms inflammation, and regulates your bowels.

Certain enzymes play a critical role in digesting food. The primary enzyme in your stomach is pepsin, which targets protein and divides it into smaller compounds. Pepsin works in tandem with hydrochloric acid to dissolve food and destroy viruses. Gastric lipase is another important digestive enzyme. This enzyme is highly acidic in nature and is responsible for about one third of the digestive process. Without sufficient levels of these enzymes, though, your stomach will have difficulty digesting food – meaning your stomach creates even more acid in an attempt to finish the digestion process, eventually depleting its acid stores. When this happens, you will be unable to digest your food, which results in a variety of IBS symptoms. A properly formulated enzyme supplement will boost your stomach’s digestive abilities and allow it to heal.

Your stomach is also a playground for friendly bacteria that keep harmful bacteria in check. Without enough of this “good” bacteria in your gut, the “bad” bacteria can run rampant and cause problems like pain, gas, inflammation, or even blood poisoning. In order to properly care for your IBS and prevent serious health problems in the future, it’s important to rebalance your stomach’s bacteria count. A probiotic supplement or probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut can introduce friendly bacteria into your stomach, keeping your gut balanced and alleviating your symptoms.

Although getting more enzymes in your diet and boosting your probiotic count can heal the damage caused by IBS and relieve the painful symptoms, IBS also brings with it other issues like bloating and poor absorption of nutrients. In order to address these issues, it’s important to take a proactive, long-term approach that prevents future problems before they arise. Chia seeds are ideal for this. Chia includes a whole host of compounds and nutrients that not only maintain long-term digestive health, but also fortify your entire body. Chia seeds contain compounds like Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, Vitamin C, iron, protein, and a variety of minerals like zinc, iron, potassium, and manganese. These compounds can reduce inflammation and promote regular digestion while nourishing your body with the nutrients it hasn’t been able to absorb.

IBS can be painful and embarrassing. However, with proper dietary changes and a great natural supplement, you can control your IBS symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life. Don’t let your IBS rule you or define you. Consult a dietician today to create a healthy dietary plan that will keep your symptoms under control.