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Diet for irritable bowel or IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as irritable bowel syndrome, is a digestive disorder characterized by abdominal pain and discomfort.

The irritable bowel diet aims to reduce the hyper stimulation and hyper distension of the intestines, which are very uncomfortable on a daily basis. By avoiding foods that irritate the intestine and by integrating the right foods, this diet helps to reduce symptoms such as gas, bloating and abdominal pain.

The 5 essential points of the irritable bowel diet:
  • Choose your fiber sources carefully
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Limit fermentable foods that irritate the intestine
  • Check your tolerance to lactose and fructose
  • Split your meals

The benefits of the Irritable Bowel Diet

The irritable bowel diet should be followed for a short period of time (approximately one month) to restore balance to the intestine.

Afterwards, when the foods that were put aside are gradually reintroduced, it also helps to identify the foods that are responsible for the digestive discomfort.

Following this diet for one month is usually enough to increase tolerance to certain foods.

Irritable bowel syndrome and diet: recommendations

The following dietary recommendations are intended to put the intestine at rest and avoid the swelling that is so unpleasant on a daily basis.

What diet to adopt in case of irritable bowel syndrome?

In the case of irritable bowel syndrome, the appropriate diet is rich in fibers that are not aggressive to the digestive system. It is also recommended to take some hygienic and dietetic measures in order to facilitate the work of the intestine and to reduce the digestive discomfort. Here are some dietary tips to apply in case of irritable bowel.

Favour soluble fibres
The lack of dietary fiber is widespread in the modern diet. However, the consumption of soluble fiber is essential to relieve people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. Soluble fiber turns into a gel during digestion, which makes it particularly gentle on the intestine. They guarantee the normal movement of the digestive tract without over-stimulating the transit. In addition, they are transformed into short-chain fatty acids that stimulate the reabsorption of water and sodium in the colon, thus avoiding loose stools. It is very important to consume them with each meal in addition to sufficient hydration.

Some foods that are sources of soluble fiber:
  • Bran and oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Peeled apples
  • Potatoes without the skin
Drink plenty of water
It is recommended to drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water every day, especially in cases of irritable bowel. You should drink throughout the day, avoiding ice water and never drinking more than one glass at a time. This prevents abdominal distension, which is very painful for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

Split meals
Regular food intake helps avoid cravings that often lead to eating anything, too fast and in too large a quantity. In the case of IBS, it is recommended to eat 3 main meals and 1 or 2 snacks. Splitting up meals also helps to avoid overloading the digestive system. Remember that distension of the intestine is very bad in cases of irritable bowel.

Eat cooked vegetables
Raw vegetables are often irritating for the intestine. It is therefore recommended to eat vegetables that are not very irritating and that are cooked: carrots, squash, zucchini and sweet potatoes. Because of their low insoluble fiber content, these vegetables are relatively gentle on the intestine.

As for fruits, apples are interesting because they contain pectin (soluble fiber) but they must be eaten peeled. Other insoluble fibers are concentrated in its skin.

Integrate psylium
If the above recommendations are not enough to relieve symptoms, it is possible to introduce psylium into the diet. Psylium increases the intake of soluble fiber. It is recommended to start with one tablespoon, then gradually increase to two tablespoons if tolerance is good. The intake of psylium must be accompanied by water. In case of diarrhea, the amount of water added should be slightly reduced.

Other recommended foods:
  • Soy products (milk, cream, yogurt)
  • Rice, millet and quinoa
  • Red and passion fruits according to tolerance
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Peanut and almond butters
  • Sweet herbal teas (chamomile, ginger, mint, fennel)

Irritable bowel, foods to avoid

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, certain foods should be avoided. It is recommended not to eat foods that can make the work of the intestine difficult. Here are a few tips to help you do this.

Limit insoluble fibre
For a long time, it was recommended that people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome increase their insoluble fibre intake. However, studies have since shown that they tend to make symptoms worse. Insoluble fiber is irritating and increases diarrhea. Especially those from whole wheat. Whole wheat will only be reintroduced in small doses after a month, moderate long-term consumption is generally very well tolerated.

Kamut, despite its insoluble fiber content, is much better tolerated than wheat. Kamut-based products can be an interesting alternative: bread, flour, pastries, etc.

Food sources of insoluble fiber to be limited:
  • Whole wheat, wheat bran and wheat-based products
  • Spelt
  • Peas, cabbage and broccoli
  • Dried fruits
  • Flaxseed
Reduce fats
Fats require a lot of digestive work, they stimulate the "gastro-colic" reflex of the intestine. Since intestinal movements are painful for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, it is preferable to reduce fat consumption.

For example, it is recommended to favour lean cuts of meat and fish and to avoid fried foods, breading and dishes rich in sauce or cream. Similarly, it is better to avoid pastries, pastries and other fatty cookies. Instead, bran-based cakes and the use of vegetable oil in small doses should be favored.

Avoid fermentable foods
Certain foods rich in polysaccharides and oligosaccharides reinforce the symptoms of irritable bowel. This is due to the fermentation of carbohydrates resulting from their digestion and which are neither absorbed nor degraded. In people suffering from irritable bowel, abdominal distension due to fermentation is felt much more strongly. This hypersensitivity makes digestion painful.

It is therefore recommended to avoid foods from the cabbage family or legumes that ferment a lot. However, it is important to reintroduce them gradually after 1 month because of their many health benefits.

Tofu and soy products are generally well tolerated, although they are made from legumes.

Beware of foods that irritate the intestine
Certain raw, acidic or spicy foods can irritate the intestine, especially if eaten on an empty stomach.

Even if raw vegetables do not cause irritable bowel syndrome, they can trigger attacks. Salads and raw vegetables should therefore be eaten as part of a complete meal and in moderate quantities. Adding a starchy food often increases tolerance.

Irritating foods to avoid :
  • raw vegetables
  • nuts and seeds
  • acidic fruits
  • coffee, tea and alcohol
  • citrus juices
  • spices
Beware of lactose and fructose
It seems that a certain proportion of people with irritable bowel syndrome also suffer from intolerance to fructose, sorbitol, lactose and fructans. It is recommended to test for intolerance to these substances in case of irritable bowel. These tests are readily available and measure the amount of hydrogen released after ingesting 50g of lactose. In IBS sufferers, the dose of 12g of lactose per day is generally well tolerated. If you think you may be lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor or have a test done before exclusion.

It is also considered that one third of people with irritable bowel syndrome are fructose intolerant. In this case, you should consult a dietician to find out about the appropriate diet in detail.

Some foods to avoid in case of lactose and fructose intolerance:
  • Milk-based products (yogurt, cream, butter, cheese)
  • Fruits rich in fructose: apple, pear, melon, mango, grapes, cherry, etc.
  • Dried fruits
  • Coconut
  • Fruit juice from concentrate
  • Corn syrup
Other foods not recommended:
  • Corn flakes
  • Multigrain bread
  • Onion
  • Cucumber
  • Deli meats
  • Dark chocolate
  • Carbonated beverages

Practical advice to avoid foods that irritate the intestine on a daily basis

  • Take the time to chew your food well: this facilitates the digestion of the intestine
  • Eat in a calm environment, without being stressed. The intestine is our second brain: stress can make digestion very difficult
  • Avoid frozen foods that cause spasms and cramps
  • Avoid anything that can cause gas: drinking through a straw, eating quickly, chewing gum and drinking sodas, among others
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day: between 1.5 and 2 liters
  • Use non-stick pans and prefer steaming to avoid adding fat
  • Add oat bran to your dishes (compotes, soups, salads, yoghurt) to increase soluble fiber intake

Intestinal irritation and diet: recipe ideas

Menu adapted to the special irritable bowel diet

  • Morning: "Halifax" breakfast (bread, peanut butter, banana, cereal, milk)
  • Noon: Sautéed scallops with spinach, Two slices of bread (rye), Orange segments
  • Snack: Plain yogurt
  • Evening: Maple chicken and sweet potatoes, roasted peppers, steamed quinoa and crème caramel

Going further: FODMAPs

For a few years now, the FODMAP diet, developed by Australian nutritionist Sue Shepherd, seems to be yielding significant and positive results, as shown by clinical studies.

Indeed, this diet would allow a relief of irritable bowel syndrome in about 75% of cases. The goal of the FODMAP diet is to limit fermentable sugars. When fermented by the bacteria in the colon, these sugars cause unpleasant symptoms very characteristic of irritable bowel syndrome: bloating, gas, abdominal pain, etc.

What does FODMAP mean?

  • F = Fermentable (rapidly fermented by colonic bacteria)
  • O = Oligosaccharides (fructan and GOS)
  • D = Di saccharides
  • M = Monosaccharides
  • A = And (and)
  • P = Polyols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol)
Find all the details on the FODMAP diet in the Low FODMAP Diet file

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