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Diet in irritable bowel syndrome – what to eat and what to avoid?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. It mostly affects women. It is very common for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to experience not only uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms but also nervous system symptoms, such as depression and personality disorders. Prevention and treatment of the disease are not easy and require strict observation of the body. Recent studies show the positive effect of treating IBS with probiotics and prebiotics, with concurrent antibiotic therapy. Also, a proper diet can relieve symptoms and reduce discomfort, making daily life easier. Why is diet so important in irritable bowel syndrome?

Diet and IBS

About 60% of people with IBS associate their symptoms with the type of food they eat, which means that different foods can make or break their symptoms.

Depending on the type of disease, different dietary modifications are made. Irritable bowel syndrome can have diarrheal, constipational, and mixed forms. It is important to note that the main component of treatment is pharmacological management. Before making dietary changes it is advisable to keep a food diary of the gastrointestinal symptoms.

Symptoms and causes of IBS
Symptoms and causes of IBS

Knowledge of dietary principles in relieving the symptoms of the disease can make life much easier. The basic rule in all forms of IBS is to eat 4-5 meals a day, every 3-4 hours. The first meal should be eaten up to 1 hour after waking up, the last one about 3 hours before going to bed. Always consider other accompanying illnesses when planning your diet.

During the period of diarrhea, a light, low-fat diet should be followed, with a limitation of dietary fiber.

However, fiber is necessary for the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, so even in the form of diarrhea we should choose:

  • light vegetables and fruits – potatoes, carrots, beets, parsley, young peas and young green beans, zucchini, pumpkin, squash, eggplant apples, raspberries, oranges, bananas, peaches, melon, avocado; fruit purees
  • purified cereal products – white bread, rusks, crispbread, wheat pasta, white rice
  • lean meat –  poultry, lean beef, veal, and lean fish
  • herbs and spices to aid digestion – cumin, dill, cinnamon
  • herbal teas

The most common dietary mistakes that cause symptoms in people with IBS are eating high-fat foods, drinking caffeinated beverages, and eating raw fruits and vegetables.

In irritable bowel syndrome, you should avoid

  • Brassica vegetables, cauliflower, onions, bell peppers, legumes, garlic, corn, brussels sprouts, and mushrooms
  • plums, pears, apricots, cherries
  • fatty meats and cheeses – yellow cheese, fat cottage cheese, blue cheese, mayonnaise and mayonnaise sauces, sour cream, ketchup, mustard, vinegar
  • acidic fruits and vegetables, chocolate, jams, sweeteners, and fruit juices – they can cause fermentation processes in the intestines
  • sweet and cold, spicy and salty drinks and dishes

How to modify diet in case of constipation?

During constipation, the amount of fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals consumed should be increased because the dietary fiber of which they are a significant source. Dietary fiber is a natural stimulant of gastrointestinal peristalsis.

Along with an increased intake of dietary fiber, the number of liquids consumed should be increased to at least 1.5 liters, and preferably 2-2.5 liters per day. It is advisable to consume fermented milk products, use mild spices (they speed up intestinal peristalsis), and avoid constipating products, limit consumption of fatty meats, fast food, and sweets.