How Some Healthy Foods can be Harmful for People with IBS
We all know the popular saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In the case of IBS sufferers apples actually give people those nasty IBS symptoms. While it is important to eat fruit and vegetables as part of a well balanced diet, for people who suffer from IBS certain fruits and vegetables are off limits. It seems counterintuitive that something rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber can actually make people feel worse. How
are some fruits and vegetables better than others in an IBS diet? There are a variety of reasons why certain fruits and vegetables can inflame the intestinal tract for people with IBS.
What is IBS?
IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. Basically, it is a list of frequent abdominal and bowel symptoms that cannot be explained by other diseases or conditions. It is more of a sensitive gut and intolerance to certain foods than a food allergy. IBS symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, bowel upset, tiredness, nausea, backache, and lower abdominal pain that is relieved by going to the bathroom. Some people suffer from all or a few of these symptoms.
While there are no known causes of IBS, doctors have determined factors that irritate the intestinal track. For example, stress and inflammation can make the gut more susceptible to symptoms as well as changes in lifestyle or diet. So how do foods recommended by nutritionists and doctors factor into this?
When first diagnosed with IBS, many doctors recommend slowly increasing the amount of fiber in your diet. Soluble fiber is especially good for adding bulk to stool and making it easier to pass. However, insoluble fiber has the opposite effect. It actually stimulates the GI tract. Most people’s instinct would be to remove the offensive food from their diet. Unfortunately, removing insoluble fiber from your diet would leave a large amount of nutritional holes in your diet. There are ways that you can eat your bran, whole grains, raw fruits and veggies, nuts, and seeds and not pay for it later.
Doctors recommend removing the skin of certain fruits and vegetables as most of the insoluble fiber is located there. Another way to get your insoluble fiber is to balance out insoluble fiber foods with soluble ones. For instance, make a low-fat soup with diced veggies or pair oatmeal with a blended fresh fruit smoothie. Or eat a small portion of insoluble fiber foods after a meal or dish of soluble fiber foods. As long as you don’t eat insoluble fiber by itself or on an empty stomach, you can still ingest these types of food.
Acidic and Sulfuric Foods
Some of these good for you foods contain sulfur or acid which can be an IBS person’s worst nightmare. Foods high in sulfur produce gas and acidic foods can irritate the upper and lower GI tract making it more susceptible to attacks as well.
These foods should definitely be eaten in moderation (or with soluble fiber depending on the food), but still included in your diet. They may cause trouble but eating them in moderation and in smaller quantities will help you get all the nutrition needed.
Foods such as apples, pears, watermelons, avocado, plums, peaches, asparagus, some type of cabbage, garlic, onions, etc. are high in FODMAPs.
FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable, oligosaccharides (a type of carbohydrate), disaccharides (lactose), monosaccharides (fructose), and polyols. These carbs are found in every day foods and vary in different amounts and are difficult to digest. Often times the intestinal track is unable to digest or absorb these carbs, leaving them for bacteria to ferment when eaten to excess. This fermentation can lead to symptoms of gas bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. In order to reduce these symptoms, some doctors and/or nutritionists recommend eating a low FODMAP diet.
A low FODMAP diet limits foods that are high in fructose, lactose, fructans, and polyols. Usually, this diet is followed for 6 weeks. At this point, high FODMAP foods are reintroduced one by one to determine which foods can trigger IBS symptoms. Once these foods are discovered, you can limit their intake. The FODMAPs elimination and reintroduction phases in this diet belong to an intensive treatment program and should only be followed with the supervision of a doctor or a dietitian.
Thanks for reading and take good care.