Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a problem for 15 to 20 percent of all U.S. adults, mostly women. Doctors don't know what causes it, there is no known cure, and it can make life miserable.
IBS is not a disease, but a set of chronic symptoms that can interfere with daily living. IBS sufferers seem to have colons that are hypersensitive to stimulation -- the colon is most commonly stimulated by stress and by a variety of foods and beverages. This leads to spasms, which result in intolerable pain from cramps and gas, and can set off a bout of diarrhea or result in constipation.
Even though there is no known cure, most people with IBS are able to control their symptoms through medications prescribed by their physicians, stress management and diet. Although everyone has her own unique foods that may set off IBS, there are some trigger foods common to most IBS patients.
The Better Digestion Diet can help you design a successful meal plan by eliminating these trigger foods. Then you can reintroduce them one at a time, in small amounts, to see what your digestive system can tolerate.
Here's a list of possible triggers that this diet will help you to avoid:
• Most dairy
Some adults have difficulty digesting lactose, a protein in milk and milk products. Dairy products that are high in fat should be eliminated as they are unhealthy generally, and all fats worsen IBS symptoms. The exception for many is yogurt because it is low in lactose and high in bacteria that are beneficial to the gut. (Make sure to choose a natural yogurt that does not contain artificial sweeteners.) Also ensure that you are still getting enough calcium by using substitutes such as fortified soy milks, rice or oat milks, and soy-based, fat-free cheeses.
Fat in any form (animal or vegetable) is a strong stimulus of colonic contractions after a meal, so all fat must be limited. That means most meats, poultry (especially dark meat and skin), oils (even the healthier olive and canola oil), butter, cream cheese, nuts and cheese. Find substitutions for fat, such as using a nonstick pan and fat-free cooking spray. Avoid hidden fat in foods by reading labels, and stay away from fried or high fat foods like avocados, egg yolks, nuts or coconut.
• Red meat
No beef, pork or lamb, which are all high in fat and difficult to digest. You can get plenty of protein by choosing lean sources such as soy products, skinned chicken breast and fish.
• Coffee and alcohol
Both stimulate the gut and inspire IBS. You may find that you can replace your morning coffee with tea. Although tea still has caffeine, which is intolerable for some, it is less harsh than coffee. If that fails, you should try a colon-calming herbal tea like peppermint or ginger.
• Artificial fats and sweeteners
Olestra, an artificial fat, is known to cause digestive problems in those who do not suffer from IBS, so don't even try it. As for artificial sweeteners, these are also best avoided as they can create excess gas in the digestive tract -- exactly what you don't need if you have IBS.
Contains caffeine, fat and often dairy products -- all of which are irritating to IBS sufferers.
• Insoluble fiber
Foods high in insoluble fiber (commonly known as roughage, which passes through the body undigested) can be difficult or intolerable. These foods include fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. (Raw fruits and vegetables and wheat bran are especially high in insoluble fiber and may need to be limited to a couple of tablespoons per meal.) If you do add high-fiber foods to your diet, do it slowly to minimize bloating and gas.
The Better Digestion Diet is built around low insoluble fiber, carbohydrates with smaller amounts of lean protein and high fiber fruits, vegetables and grains.
Oatmeal topped with soy or rice milk and ripe banana slice or Rice Chex topped with banana and soy milk
Oatmeal Pancakes with maple syrup
Tofu smoothie, such as Apple Berry Smoothie
Dairy-Free Soy Tomato Soup
Angel food cake with 1/4 cup mashed strawberries
Pita sandwich made with thinly sliced smoked turkey breast, slice of low-fat or fat-free soy cheese and a tablespoon of chutney
Glass of soy milk
1/4 cup diced mango or papaya with Cinnamon Honey Dressing
Tuna salad sandwich (made with water packed tuna, fat-free mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon chopped celery) on rye bread
Chilled steamed fresh green beans (small serving) with Creamy Italian Dressing
Crispy Tofu with Plum and Ginger Sauce
Small serving of steamed broccoli
Baked apple with soy ice cream
Skinless chicken breast such as Orange Chicken Madeira (the alcohol in the wine will cook off)
Mashed sweet potatoes
New York Tofu Cheesecake
Glass of tomato juice
Garlic Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta (omitting the butter)
Steamed peeled zucchini
Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Cups
Baked potato topped with fat-free soy sour cream
Small serving steamed green beans
Dairy-free frozen dessert