Tips for Helping IBS with Diet

By Judith Reid - Naturopathic Nutritionist -

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a neon light sign telling you that your digestive system needs some much overdue TLC.

It’s easy to overlook the strain that stress puts on your digestive system; likewise when you rush your meals or perhaps overeat. You can get away with poor eating habits and stress for a while but eventually your digestion can lose its natural rhythm and before you know it you are suffering constipation, diarrhoea, spasms, bloating and other distressing symptoms.

Diet plays a big part in helping with IBS. Here are just a few tips. In essence, think gentle and soothing; think TLC at all times.

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  • Water.  Your new best friend. Digestion is one of the biggest water-users in the body. If you aren’t sufficiently hydrated, your food isn’t broken down sufficiently and this can put a strain on your digestive tract. Try drinking at least 4 pints of warm water, spread throughout the day. A good idea is to drink half to one pint half an hour before each meal.
  • Ditch the coffee. High in caffeine, this can act like an electric shock through the digestive tract, which is far from the TLC it craves
  • Spasms are often caused by poor hydration but also magnesium deficiency. Include magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables; brown rice and millet; nuts (e.g. cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachio); seeds (e.g. sunflower, sesame, chia); pulses (e.g. lentils, peas and beans); seaweed (e.g. kelp); banana; avocado; dried fruit (e.g. apricots, raisins, dates). Pre-soak your nuts, seeds and dried fruits to aid digestion.

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Include plenty of fibre in your diet to allow a good transit time. Avoid harsh fibres like bran and wheat. Instead include oats, seaweeds, soaked chia seeds and linseeds, vegetables and fruits as well as pulses. Some people find pulses a challenge (windy-pops galore) so go easy on them if this is the case. Similarly, fruit and vegetables might be better tolerated if lightly baked or steamed. Always listen to your body.

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  • IBS is also a sign of poor levels of good bacteria in your gut. I usually recommend a good quality pre/probiotic supplement to correct this. Diet-wise, small quantities of fermented foods such as home made sauerkraut (shop bought tends to be pasteurised and hence useless for providing good bacteria) and kefir can help.
  • Foods to avoid include processed and refined foods; sugar (which feed bad bacteria in the gut); wheat; and dairy, as well as spicy foods.
  • Drink soothing teas such as camomile, peppermint, fennel, liquorice and ginger.

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It’s not just WHAT you eat that matters though. HOW you eat is just as important. Try to leave stress outside the dining area!  Take time over your food. Chew every mouthful and really enjoy it.

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