In our new “Eating with…” series, we’ll be looking into different health conditions and how nutrition can help manage and mitigate the symptoms associated with each one. To start, digestive health specialist Kristin Houts explains what Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is, how it affects those who have it, and how nutrition plays a role in symptom management:
What is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. Those with IBS often experience abdominal discomfort or pain along with diarrhea, constipation, or alternating episodes of both. Bloating, cramping, and gas are also common.
As with other functional disorders, IBS doesn’t cause changes in bowel tissue or anatomy; however, it is a long-term, or chronic, condition that requires ongoing symptom management, which may include medication, dietary changes, and stress management.
The way diet affects IBS isn’t fully understood, but many people note worse IBS symptoms when they eat certain foods. The low FODMAP diet is an evidence-based approach for identifying personal food triggers through an elimination period and systematic reintroduction of foods. Research shows that up to 75% of people who live with IBS will find relief from their symptoms by reducing the overall amount of FODMAPs in their diet.
Five Foods to Include in your Diet
Dark leafy greens, like spinach, contain vitamins, minerals, and phenolic compounds that may help protect against the risk of developing chronic disease. Spinach also has iron, magnesium, and folate– important vitamins and minerals for growth and development as well as energy production.
Oats contain soluble fiber, which is the type of fiber that dissolves in water and gels in the gut. Foods with soluble fiber help to keep things moving in the gut, but can also slow down a fast-moving system helping to reduce frequent bowel movements and diarrhea. Consuming whole grains, like oats, can also reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
Eggs are an inexpensive and extremely versatile protein source for those with IBS. While old nutrition advice used to include avoiding egg yolks to decrease dietary cholesterol intake, new research has since proven this unnecessary. Additionally, eggs provide a variety of nutritional benefits, including vitamin D, choline and antioxidants, like lutein and zeaxanthin — the majority of which are found within the yolk!
Strawberries contain insoluble fiber– the other type of fiber essential for healthy digestion. A one-cup serving contains 3 grams of low-FODMAP fiber making it a great option for those who are sensitive to other high fiber fruits.
Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained, which removes liquid whey and lactose leaving behind a thicker yogurt with more protein. For those that are sensitive to lactose, Greek yogurt is often better tolerated because of the way the active cultures consume any lactose that remains.
- To avoid garlic and onions (and cut down on meal prep time), use an infused olive oil instead! You’ll get all the flavor while avoiding potentially bothersome FODMAPs.
- Knowing how to hard boil an egg provides you with a simple, ready-to-eat protein perfect for those with IBS. Follow our fool-proof method if you don’t already know how!
- If you are sensitive to lactose, look for lactose-free dairy products.
FEED’s Favorite Recipes for IBS
- Simple potato salad
- Overnight oats
- Cucumber and strawberry summer salad
- Arugula egg white muffins
- Popcorn with nutritional yeast