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Healthy eating with IBS

I've been trying to eat healthier—cutting down on fats and sugar and cutting out all fast food for example—but due to my IBS I'm finding it really hard to follow the advice to eat "lots of fruits and vegetables." If I eat more that 1-2 servings per meal I often get an attack (I'll spare you all what that entails). I generally rely on pasta but have found my weight creeping up (and it took so long to lose in the first place!). I also can't do the "several small meals throughout the day" due to my schedule—I have a lunch break and that's pretty much the only time I can eat at work, hungry or not.

Anyone else in a similar boat and what do you do?

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  1. Hi Jasz. I had IBD for several years. There are some good books out there about foods/diet for people with IBD and IBS. As it's such a specific problem to a small group of people, you might be better off checking out some of those books than posting on CH for ideas. But who knows, maybe there are some IBS/IBD folks that will respond to your post.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rockandroller1

      I have UC - Pancolitis. I try and avoid pretty much all HFCS, sugars and fats. But everything in moderation. Still, I love pizza and those unhealthy Aussie Fries and could down a cheeseburger every week, so you know I am not going to cross it off my list for the rest of my life. I am only 25/Fem.

      But in general, I mostly eat a lot of of chicken breasts and rice, extra lean beef (95%), and baked potatoes or sweet potatoes. Lots of Water. And Green or Peppermint Tea. Pretty much it for me. I dig cereal too and cheese, and sometimes a plain omelette w/ cheese, but like you, my stomach can be finnicky...so again its just a day by day thing pretty much.

      A book can only help so much. It's personal. You just learn over time what works for you, pretty much all there is to it...

    2. I've had IBS for around 25 years, with me it's hit and miss. One day everything is fine(no matter what I eat) the next day I'm doubled over. My barber can't touch any fresh fruit or veg. or she's "out of commision" for days. Personally I think it's psycological (not in a bad way) I think there's something in my/our sub concious that triggers it. Health care pros. are at a quandry on this, nobody really knows.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        I totally agree, mrbigshotno.1, both about the hit and miss and the psychological element. I just wish I could figure out what to do about it.

      2. Obviously, it depends on what your specific triggers are (IBS is such a vague diagnosis and we all seem to have different things that set it off), but I know all too well what you're talking about. Believe it or not, what helps me "eat healthy" is making sure I'm getting enough good fat along with my veggies. Balancing out all of the high-fiber items with nuts, olive oil, avocado, etc. helps my system process things at a more even keel. I also tend to go a little heavier on the lean protein than what the food pyramid suggests. Instead of pasta, I swap out beans wherever I can (even though that seems counterproductive, it works for me for some reason - I feel fuller and digest more slowly than I do with the refined carbohydrate items without causing the kind of distress I get from overdosing on veggies). Also, I sometimes find that taking probiotics (or eating yogurt regularly) helps, especially when I'm having attacks regularly with no identifiable triggers.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Wahooty

          The yogurt almost completely eliminated one of my symptoms (yay!) but new ones just popped up to take its place. I've had this going on 15 years now, not a new thing but getting more frustrating as it seems more-or-less random with no particular triggers. Wahooty, what kind of beans do you eat and how do you prepare them? I tend to avoid them and other known gas producers out of fear.

          1. re: Jasz

            For what it's worth, I get better results from probiotic capsules than yogurt. For me, the enteric coated ones do wonders...the regular ones sometimes cause me more symptoms than going without, but if I can get the little buggers deposited safely a little further down my digestive tract, they do great things in terms of stabilizing my digestion.

            My best recommendation re: beans is to try different types/preparations in small doses. Obviously they're known gas producers (toot!), but most vegetarians will tell you your system will adapt if you're not used to eating them, and I think this is true even with IBS. In my experience, canned beans are easier to digest than reconstituted dried ones, probably because they end up more thoroughly (almost exhaustively) cooked. I eat a lot of black beans, lentils, and chickpeas because I like them a lot and they don't give me bad enough symptoms to stop. I like to add them to soups that normally call for pasta - this is a way of getting more protein and fiber in without ODing. Cristianos y moros (rice with black beans) might be a good way to ease into beans if you're freaked out - the easily-digested carbs in the rice dilute the beans and make it a little easier to handle until you know how they affect you. If you have a hard time with them, you might also try Beano - it really does help, as does a little extra fat if you need it (olive oil is a dear friend of mine). I also love and eat a lot of hummus - just be careful how much you eat and what you're dipping in it (start with pita, then if that works move to whole-wheat pita or veggies if your stomach can handle it). On the other hand, I really love pigeon peas but my GI tract seems to have a hard time with them...I'm trying to train it, but may have to resort to having my rice and peas with some other sort of bean. (There's a difference between a few good, healthy farts and a flare-up, you know what I mean? If nothing else, IBS has taught me to value a Really Good Fart.)

            Lately, I also can't get enough cucumbers. They are mostly water, so they are filling, low in calories, and not nearly as fibrous as other veggies. And I happen to love the way they taste. So I load up my salads with them, dip them in hummus, make cocktails of them, eat pickles as snacks, etc. etc.

            Obviously, all of this depends on how bad your symptoms are - as long as I avoid my worst triggers, mine are manageable if rather inconvenient, so I don't mind testing myself on occasion. But I happen to have a very strong stomach above the IBS (an oxymoron to some, but it makes sense to me)...your mileage may vary. :) I get what you're saying about the random nature, though - I'm in my 9th year and get sideswiped (or is that rear-ended? ;) ) every now and then, and sometimes things I can normally eat just refuse to agree with me, and then are fine the next time.

        2. This is just anecdotal info, but two conditions, IBS and asthma are frequently reported by new low carb dieters to just disappear or dramatically improve. It's not everyone, but it's a very frequently offered anecdote I've noted for over a decade. It might be worth a trial of cutting out starches and sugars, keep the veggies, and seeing if you're one of the lucky ones.

          I hope you figure it out and feel better however you get there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mcf

            I was thinking along the same lines. My "IBS" was gluten intolerance.

          2. I've had IBS for about 10 years, maybe longer but didn't know it...I'd starve to death if I followed the "diet" my doctor told me to try. Some times, I go months without getting sick, some times I get hit every day for a couple or three then it goes away. I know that I'm lactose intolerant and that aggravates my condition because I adore milk, ice cream & cheese..other dairy like butter, yogurt and eggs don't bother me. So, if I'm having a craving for ice cream, I'll take Lactaid pills & I'm okay 80% of the time.

            OTOH, things like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and greasy foods I eat in moderation and I'm not following the diet. Different things work for different people.

            1. I was dx'd with MC/LC about 5 or 6 years ago. I spent a year of my life in complete and utter distress & misery.
              A few things I can recommend....
              1) keep a food journal, see what you're eating & if specific foods trigger an attack.
              2) Back off fruits and veggies for a while. Not sure who's telling you to eat them but they are WRONG. Acid in the fruits can trigger, as can salad greens. If you need fruit - bananas and apples are ok. Think BRAT diet.
              3) Definitely try eating more yogurt, taking acidopholous.
              4) Cut out sugar and white flour. Try following the key elements of the South Beach diet. Just be mindful of how much acid you're putting in your system (vinegar, tomatoes, etc). Even try cutting out coffee for a while and just have tea.
              5) Get on meds - even if it's just Pepto caplets. I took up to 8 a day combined with my meds. I was on meds for a couple of yrs and have been virtually symptom & med free for the last 4 years (minus the occasional day here & there). Depending how sick your gut is, the meds don't need to be a forever kind of thing.
              And finally, good luck....this disease sucks but it doesn't have to define you if you make some changes. If you get desperate, you can always check out this book - but it's super intense: http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/

              2 Replies
              1. re: amanda3571

                Wow...this is what I was getting at about individual diagnoses and knowing your triggers. The BRAT diet would have me in severe distress (as did the other generic recs of doctors when they were trying to diagnose me - fructose malabsorption was my first big identifiable culprit, so the mere thought of eating applesauce makes me want to hurl). But I do agree re: the SBD - I've used it to both lose weight and keep my weight down, ever since my diagnosis. When I drift away from it for long periods of time, both my weight and my IBS symptoms increase. :)

                1. re: Wahooty

                  Indeed, everyone's different. Banana's were good for me during my time of crisis. I don't care much for apples but it was always suggested (though now that I think back on it, I think it was mostly suggested by my mother :) before the dx was made.

              2. Jasz, I feel your pain, literally and figuratively. I've been dealing with IBS for about 7 years, and not really knowing what it was for the first 4 years or so. In my family we referred to it as 'the alien." In the span of 5 minutes my tummy would get so bloated I looked 5 months pregnant. It got so bad that I finally went to the doctor and went through all kinds of testing to rule things out and this is what they came up with. The hard part was that I could never identify any triggers. I eat pretty much the same kind of stuff all the time so there was no saying that this or that triggered the attacks. The good news though is that I have it pretty much under control now. It's been months since I've had any kind of attack and previously it was at least every two weeks and it was BAD! Before I started taking a prescription med (more about that later) my doctor suggested I start taking FiberCon daily. I forget how many mg. he told me to take but I can tell you that it comes out to 6-8 caplets per day. Over the course of a couple of years I've increased it to 12 daily (6 in the morning, 6 in the evening) and it really helped. I know you're thinking, OMG, I'll live in the bathroom forever but it doesn't do that to you. All it does is regulate your digestive system. It makes everything "normal". That alone worked wonders for a couple of years and then it started up again, but even more intense. That was when the doctor put me on a prescription med, Hyomax, which I take twice daily. Between the FiberCon and the Hyomax, its all under control. Its been a couple of years on this regimen and its been a lifesaver! One more thing... Costco sells generic FiberCon in large containers at a very good price. It's worth checking it out. I think they come 300 or so to a bottle, and cost WAY LESS than the FiberCon. It's called FiberTabs and they're exactly the same thing. Good luck!!