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To understand what to eat with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it is helpful to understand a few key things about it. IBS is a gut-brain disorder, which means the problem arises from the way the brain and the gut work together. The sensitivities that occur with IBS result from the way the muscles in the gut contract. With IBS, there is often no sign of visible damage or disease in the bowel.

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FODMAPs

Researchers have identified FODMAPs as probable triggers to IBS. FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates that cause multiple issues in the gut, including increased fluid and gas, which leads to pain, bloating, and bowel changes. Avoiding FODMAPs can greatly improve IBS symptoms. One study found that eliminating FODMAPs improved symptoms in 76% of people with IBS.

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Triggers

An important part of the IBS diet is learning what to avoid. Common triggers include dairy products, foods containing high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, certain beans, soy, and grains like wheat and rye. Avoid fruits like apples, peaches, pears, cherries, watermelon, cherries; and vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, onions, and mushrooms. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

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Journaling

Everyone with IBS has unique triggers. When following an IBS diet, it is a good idea to keep track of what you eat in a food journal to determine your personal triggers. Share this information with your doctor. You may need to eliminate a significant number of foods from your diet in this case, it may be necessary to talk to a registered dietician to make sure you are still getting proper nutrition.

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Eat More Fiber

Increasing fiber helps improve the way the intestines work, which can alleviate IBS symptoms. You should incorporate fiber into every meal, but be sure to increase the amount of fiber gradually. Too much too fast can cause bloating and gas. Good sources of fiber that are generally safe for IBS are barley, black beans, brown rice, whole grains, and oats. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables with the skins on are also good sources of fiber.

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Ideas for Dairy

Regular dairy products like milk, ice cream, and some cheeses are not advisable when following an IBS diet . Instead, try using lactose-free milk or dairy alternatives like rice, soy, or oat milk. While most soft cheeses can trigger symptoms, hard cheeses are usually safe, as are camembert and brie. Looking for an alternative for butter? Try olive oil.

Almond Milk Lactose-Free pamela_d_mcadams / Getty Images
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Good Fruits

As mentioned, a lot of fruits trigger IBS symptoms, especially those with a lot of fructose. That said, fruits also have a lot of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber that are beneficial to your diet. Luckily, certain fruits are safe for IBS. An easy way to eat more fruit is to add some banana to your oatmeal. Or, try snacking on oranges or adding a squeeze of fresh citrus to add zest to your soups and salads.

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Fill Up with Veggies

While you should avoid gas-producing vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, there are still plenty of vegetables that are good to eat. Celery and carrots make a great mid-day snack. Invest in a spiralizer to make zoodles - noodles made from zucchini - as an alternative to pasta, then add some olive oil and fresh herbs for flavor.

Vegetables Zucchini Zoodles Angela Kotsell / Getty Images
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Pick Your Protein

Protein is an essential part of any diet, and beef, chicken, pork, and fish are all safe foods for an IBS diet. With a little effort, you can figure out alternatives to popular dinner choices. Instead of a burger on a tradition bun, use a lettuce wrap. If you are a fan of fried chicken, try making the breading out of almond flour or ground up corn flakes for a gluten-free crunch. Grill some chicken and add it to your zoodles or pan-fry a tuna steak and enjoy on a leafy green salad.

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Alternatives to Grains

Most kinds of pasta and store-bought bread use wheat flour, which is a big IBS trigger, but there are a lot of options for grain alternatives when following an IBS diet. Not only can you have oatmeal and cornflakes for breakfast, but you can have bread as well provided it is made from oat or rice flour. Try corn, coconut, or almond flour, too, and make your own IBS-friendly bread at home.

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Elimination Diets and Reintroduction

In some cases, if you work with a doctor or registered dietician and follow a low FODMAP diet, it is possible to reintroduce certain foods back into your diet. In this case, you add one food at a time and monitor for symptoms to decide whether or not the newly introduced food is safe to eat. This is a situation where keeping a food journal is immensely helpful as it helps you narrow down the specific foods that trigger your IBS symptoms.

Nutritionist Dietician Reintroduction Cecilie_Arcurs / Getty Images

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.