A typical mealtime can feel like navigating a digestive minefield for people with irritable bowel syndrome. Most people will not eat much at all because of this fear or will eat a few foods on a regular basis. As a result, it pretty much stinks in both instances.
In addition to making meals less enjoyable, limiting what you eat also inhibits your ability to get the nutrients you actually need, especially fiber. People with intestinal issues are likely to benefit from consuming more fiber, so eating less will not help. (Plus, fiber may lower cholesterol levels, promote metabolic health, and improve longevity.)
For someone with IBS, eating more of a nutrient known to help you poop might seem counter-intuitive. I wouldn’t recommend going overboard with fiber sources. Working with a gastroenterologist is essential to healing your gut, and a nutritionist or dietitian can help you design a healthy meal plan. Even so, there are some general rules registered dietitian Sharon Palmer, RD suggests you keep in mind if you want to increase your fiber intake.
1. Put low-FODMAP veggies on your plate
Although all vegetables contain fiber, Palmer calls attention to the fact that some aren’t friendly to people with IBS. It is possible for some vegetables to trigger migraines. Palmer says cauliflower, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts are among the most common. IBS sufferers suffer from gastric distress caused by the short-chain carbohydrates found in FODMAP foods. Palmer explains that these foods are digested quickly in our guts because they are full of sugars and fibers. It has been found that avoiding high-FODMAP foods can reduce IBS symptoms in some people, though this is a temporary diet and shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice.
Despite this, there are still many low-FODMAP vegetables that provide some fiber, such as spinach, arugula, squash, and tomatoes. Experiment with fiber-rich, low-FODMAP vegetables to prevent food fatigue. You can make your meal more exciting if you prepare the ingredients differently. For example, roast your tomatoes instead of eating them raw.
2. Mix low-FODMAP grains with your veggies in place of lentils
IBS sufferers may be triggered by pulses, like beans, Palmer says. The combination of vegetables and low FODMAP pulses such as lentils and whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, oats, millet, and rice may be safer for you. These options will provide you with a complete meal that includes veggies and protein.
Speaking of grains, what’s the deal with gluten? An RD speaks up:
3. Spread out your fiber intake throughout the day rather than having it all at once
If you consume 25 grams of fiber a day on average, it is good for your health, however, getting too much fiber at a time can cause digestion issues, especially if you already struggle with digestion. Spread out your intake throughout the day to avoid overloading your stomach.
Palmer explains that a person’s tolerance for fiber depends on their symptoms, triggers, and medical condition. You may want to increase your fiber intake per meal slowly if you are unfamiliar with eating much fiber.
4. Try experimenting with new fibers slowly
Consumers use high-fiber products to remain on top of their fiber intake goals. Despite offering great fiber, Palmer urges consumers to introduce these products slowly to their diets. According to her, inulin is often triggered [by IBS], as it is present in many fiber-rich foods, such as chicory root.
If it seems to work for you, Palmer says you should give it a try. It’s important to track what fiber sources are in these products, so you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. She also advised not to completely eliminate inulin, because it’s a healthy prebiotic. (Yet another reason to read the nutritional information on food labels).
It cannot be overstated how important fiber is for everyone. For those with IBS, there is no need to restrict all sources of energy. Follow these guidelines and you’ll get more fiber, as well as enjoy it.
Assess the effectiveness of exercise in treating IBS symptoms. We’ll also discuss FODMAP myths.