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Oct 29, 2006 03:00 PM

Adding 'savory' to an IBS diet-tips?

Anyone with tips on adding deliciousness to an Irritable Bowel Syndrome diet? This diet disallows vegetable roughage; I'm having trouble making "bland food" appetizing. Hubby will be on the diet for about 5 more weeks-we're on week 5 and it's getting to be a let-down, the same few soggy veggies served over and over. I try to serve a green and a yellow veg+fruit plus a starch at dinner; work lunch is a tough one. Here is what we have to work with:

Allowed, but cooked to very soft only:
green beans
artichoke hearts
peeled summer and winter squash
white potatoes

Also OK:
soft cheeses, butter, margarine, veg oils, occasional eggs
adcidophilus milk/ kefir
unseasoned broths
soft beef
refined pastas, breads and flours
applesauce or baked apples, soft cooked or canned
skinned apricots, peaches, pears, and plums. Bananas.

not allowed:
spicey seasonings or condiments
tomatoes and peppers
all cruciferous veg (broccoli & realtives)
onion-any type
raw greens (lettuces, sprouts)
sweet potatoes
seeds or nuts

I've got the allowed items down, but how to season? any secret ingredients/tricks, favorite combos, packed lunch ideas?

Many thanks for any help you can give.

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  1. I think I am facing the same sort of thing. I'd love some suggestions too. No sweet potatoes but white are okay? That is a puzzle. This is also complicated since we count carbs. I am really havibg a hard time imagining no onions or garlic in my food for a few months. Will garlic or onion flavored juices be a no no?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      it's the sulpher compounds in all alliums that are the problem, so I haven't even used garlic powder (shudder). I'm trying to find more info on soluable (good) fiber vs. insoluable (not good). Dr's office staff no help, there's no dietician either. The handout is at least 10 years old, one tech admitted. Not even sure if the recommendations are still based on current info.

      Yes, this diet is contrary to the way we've been eating for 40 years. My anti-inflammatory response diet is just the opposite, just to make things more interesting. So far, I've cheated by eating "white" rather than have him eat "brown" because I just don't have the energy to cook two different meals. We're eating OK but it sure is unappetizing to tastes that have revolved around fresh, whole and raw. Appetizing is key. I want him to look forward to meals, and he's been a good sport, praising these bland meals, even though he knows they are sub-par. I'm hoping someone will chime in with some tips.

      It IS difficult indeed to leave out the alliums, and peppers, and tomatoes, and still aim for food with a modicum of flavor. I was wondering about anchovy paste and fish sauce. I'm told they are stealth secret flavorings; have never used them myself. They're not on the no-no list as far as I can tell.

      What really kills me is the nutrition we're having to forgo. It really troubles me.

      1. re: toodie jane

        Ginger, fennel seed, oregano, and bay leaf are good, especially ginger. Asafetida might work as a substitute for onions and garlic, but it also gets its flavor from sulphur compounds, so you may want to be careful with it. I think you're on the right track with the umami flavorings like fish sauce(stinks like just about nothing else, and the flavor is a bit of an acquired taste so you may want to go easy with it at first.) Mushrooms are also good for umami. Parmigiano reggiano is tremendously high in umami, so you may want to experiment and see if it's tolerated.

        One obvious tip that I don't recall having been mentioned is thorough chewing. That seems to help me as much as anything.
        While wearing braces(bands, actually) that wouldn't stay attached to my teeth, I got into the bad habit of barely chewing my food, and that wreaked havoc with my digestive system. Eating small meals and not going too long between meals is also important. Soft drinks are another problem for me because I tend drink a lot of them--they're a quadruple menace: caffeine, carbonation, fructose, and acid. Probably best avoided altogether. Orange juice on an empty stomach isn't a good idea either because of the acidity and fructose. Eating soluble fiber before eating anything else is a good idea.

    2. This sounds like a tough diet. So sorry you have to go through this.

      I am not sure if cream is ok, but how about poached fish? I use a mixture of water and dry white wine for poaching, but if wine is not ok, you can just skip it. After fish is almost cooked, I remove it to let it rest while reducing the poaching liquid to concentrate the flavor. Then swirl in a little flour blended with butter to thicken the sauce and finish with a little cream. I add some sort of chopped herb in the end, but you can skip that if it's not ok. Here is the basic recipe that you can modify to suit your needs:

      Here is another idea: mashed celery root (if you get tired of potatoes


      If mushrooms are ok, try getting some imported, dried porcini and reconstituting them. The liquid is super flavorful and you can use it to make a soup or risotto. Even if you skip onions and garlic, it will still be very flavorful.

      If oats are ok, here is an oatmeal risotto made with steel cut oats:
      Again, you can skip the veggies or substitute as necessary. Even if served completely plain with a little parmesan, it's still good.

      By the way, is salt ok?

      I do hope your husband feels better soon!


      1 Reply
      1. re: A Fish Called Wanda

        Sweet acidophilus milk or Lactaid is the only liquid dairy allowed. Lactaid is pretty awful, and $$, but I've made some tasty bechamel sauces from the SA. Last night we had Mac n' Cheese with some good farmstead cheese. It was nice comfort food, but a bit rich. We've been doing lots of sauteed snapper and bbq King salmon which thankfully is low in price right now.

        Salt is not on the no-no list, but we're pretty moderate in our use of it.

        Thanks for the idea on the celery root. I've always wanted to try it. All root veggies are OK if they're mashed. (He doesn't like beets). I will try some parsnips despite my reservations.

        The porcini broth is a good idea--don't know why I didn't think of it, but no whole grains of any kind. I'll try it instead on some white Basmati. I've been grinding some seed to dust (Cumin) and that seems to be tolerated.

        Marcia--we're in it for the long haul with this treatment specialist--but I'm still looking for information about the diet. Treatments are for about 5 more weeks but diet could be more or less permanent. Everyone reacts differently, but I'm trying my best to adapt. I sincerely thank you all for your suggestions and support--it helps more than you might realize!:)

      2. The idea of poached fish just makes me shudder and kind of gag. I will see my MD this week but the IBS problem I was writing off to being on pain meds and stress after back surgery and prior to a long planned vacation disappeared in London. Upon return home they re-manifested. But with that I am trying to avoid heavy fiber or much fiber. Any low fiber tasty suggestions would be appreciated.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          I wonder if you could use asetfedita as a seasoning for some of this awful sounding bland food? It's commonly available at Indian groceries under the name hing. An acquaintance is sensitive to any alliums, and is able to use hing, which flavors food in a splendid way.
          Perhaps this diet isn't helpful, anyway. Maybe a new physician or a second opinion is in order. Best of luck to you and your husband.

          1. re: Marcia Morgan

            It is Toodie Jane's husband with tthe problem not mine. I had a flash this AM, I was trying to think what was different in London food-wise than from home. It occured to me early this AM over there I was getting regular bread for toast in the AM and the bread I eat here is a high vegetable fiber bread. So this AM I am trying some steel cut oats and no toast.

            I have not consulted my MD on this yet but no way I'd change MD's. Mine is the best!

            1. re: Candy

              Candy--from what I've read in the IBS books I bought, it is transitory. Sometimes foods will affect you, sometimes not. Sometimes mildly, sometimes not.

              All whole grains are on his no-no list, as the insoluable fiber is the culprit. Refined wheat, rice, corn, etc., rolled oats are OK.

              1. re: toodie jane

                I guess I will have to pick up some rolled oats today. Thanks.

                1. re: Candy

                  Sorry, Candy, I obviously meant to reply to Toodie Jane.

            2. re: Marcia Morgan

              HING-o.k., I'll look for some. Will need to e-order. Anyone know a good source for Indian foodstuffs?

              thanks-this is what I was hoping for.

              1. re: toodie jane

                It's possible that may have hing. I'm having some computer troube and was unable to pull up the site. Be forewarned...hing has a really pungent odor, but is quite lovely when cooked.

                1. re: toodie jane

                  You can buy asafoetida (hing) in a lot of shops, in the spice section. I got mine at Sainsbury's (are you in the UK?).

                  Many brands dilute it with some other powder (starch? flour?). This is not a bad thing if you're starting out. The stuff is VERY strong, and the word "foetid" has the same root. It's used widely in Indian Vedic cooking, where onions, garlic, and other "tamasic" foods are prohibited.

                  In fact, you might want to have a look at some Vedic cookbooks--a lot of the veggies will be no-nos, but you might get some ideas about flavors.

                  Also, is miso allowed? Tofu? I'd think those would be ok because they're mild. Miso makes a great seasoning aside from being a soothing soup.

            3. I have Crohn's disease, not IBS, so I'm not sure if the the food effects are the same. One of the first things my mother-in-law, a former nurse, told me after surgery (I have a bit less intestine than I used to 10 years ago)was that she was sorry I couldn't eat interesting food anymore. The doctor contradicted that by telling me that every patient reacts to diet differently and it would really be a matter of trial-and-error to determine what foods aggravated my Crohn's. My problems are triggered by excess amounts of fat and I feel much better when I can force myself to stick to a low-fat diet. High fiber and strongly spiced foods do not affect me negatively at all.
              You might want to experiment - gently - and with a doctor's approval. You might find yourself getting lucky.
              Best wishes.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rockycat

                I think you are right--last night i made mac 'n cheese cause all ingreds were on the ok list, but wow, it gave him trouble! Too rich, I think. Sometimes really greasy food (low-quality Chinese stir-fry, or deep-fried food) does it to me.

                I think I am going to try very small amounts of onions or garlic to see if he tolerates them. That would make a big difference in flavor!

                And try foodrocks' fennel tea.

                thanks for chiming in, I truley appreciate every bit.

                1. re: toodie jane

                  Speaking of rich, I found it odd that fats weren't mentioned on your foods list. They certainly are a trigger for some folks with lower GI issues...

              2. I totally empathize with your problems. I was diagnosed with IBS several years back while in college, and not only was eating right painfully hard, but doctors had no knowledge whatsoever on what actually helps IBS. I think this is mainly because IBS is typically diagnosed when no other illinesses can be found.
                What has helped me a lot was the following website: This not only explains the difference between good fiber and bad fiber (the doctor always seem to tell me to eat bad fiber!), but it includes a list of safe and not safe foods, and several recipes that are completely IBS safe. I must admit, I still don't eat as well as I should, but my eating habits have improved immensely since I found this site. I like to include as much soluable fiber as possible with my meals, which has allowed me to eat some of the foods that are not so good for me. The first tip is to eat soluble fiber at the beginning of every meal. I eat oatmeal every day for breakfast, applesauce and carrots with lunch, and carrots and rice with dinner. Soluble fiber passes right through the body, which helps sweep out any toxins. I have found success with the prescription pill Levbid, which calms the spasms in my GI tract, but on this website are several natural remedies that have been a real break through for me. Peppermint, ginger, and fennel are a few natural remedies that help with common IBS issues. Pepperment settles the stomach, but I happen to hate the taste of it. The website sells peppermint pills for those with mint phobias like myself, and it almost always helps settle my stomach when it starts to get upset. Another helpful remedy is fennal tea, also available on the website (they sell a much more potent tea than most commercial tea companies). Fennel tea helps with painful gas and bloating, and after spending many nights awake with some really painful gas, this acts quick and usually calms down my stomach when these feelings start.
                I hope this helps you out a bit. Definately check out the website posted above, as it has tons of ibs-safe recipes. I am posting one below, but the website is much more comprehensive. Good luck and happy eating.


                2 pounds small red new potatoes, rinsed, dried & halved
                2 tablespoons olive oil
                1-1/4 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
                salt and freshly ground black pepper
                1/2 cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
                1/2 small red onion, cut into think slivers
                2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
                1-1/2 tablespoons malt vinegar or rice wine vinegar
                1 tablespoon lite mayo
                1 small garlic clove, minced
                2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

                Toss potatoes in oil with herbs, a generous srinkling of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Place potatoes, cut side down, in a single layer on a lipped cookie sheet. Set pan on lowest rack of cold oven; heat oven to 450 degrees. Roast until cut side is golden brown and potatoes are tender -- 20 to 25 minutes.

                Transfer potatoes to a large bowl; add olives, onion and parsley.

                Whisk vinegar, mayo, garlic, big pinch of salt, and a couple grinds of pepper in a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Slowly whisk in oil, first in droplets, then in a slow, steady stream. Pour dressing over warm salad; toss to coat.

                For best flavor, serve at room temperature.