By Emily Carver, Recent ASU Nutrition Student
If you aren’t dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it’s likely you know someone who is. It is estimated that up to 15% of people in the United States suffer from IBS, and in fact, it’s one of the most common problems among women that leave many with feelings of constant stomach upset, bloating, diarrhea; or in some cases, it’s not so great counterpart, constipation.
Despite constantly feeling terrible, many are confused with how to reduce their symptoms, because the cause of the disorder is unclear. What isn’t unclear, however, is that diet plays a major role in the discomfort level of a person suffering from IBS. People who suffer from IBS should have a diet low in FODMAPs in order to significantly reduce their symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. What’s FODMAP? Its fermentable carbohydrates that include oligosaccharides (onions, jicama), disaccharides (milk, yogurt), monosaccharides (honey, beans), and polyols (low-calorie sugar replacers).
Diets that are low in FODMAPs can have significant positive effects, most notably a reduction in abdominal discomfort, distention, flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation. Something everyone wants, right? But where does one start?
Here are 3 easy ways to stop those dreaded IBS symptoms
- Write It Down
So easy, right? It’s so important to know what’s going in your mouth. Without knowing, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s triggering and flaring your IBS symptoms.
If the idea of a food diary is too daunting, write down when you have an episode instead. Think about the foods you just ate to really get an idea of what you’re reacting to and write those down. 30 seconds is all you need to write those specific foods in your notebook. Doing this will open a whole new world for you that you didn’t know was there.
Believe me when I say, that world is a happy world.
- Switch Things Up
Now that you have a good idea of the foods that are triggering an episode, you can start switching things up. Switching it up is simple to do, too.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, foods that are considered low in FODMAPs can greatly reduce your symptoms. I said earlier what each letter stood for but what does it really mean? Think of it as sugars within a food. This isn’t like your white sugar you’d bake with or put in your coffee, instead, FODMAP sugars are those found naturally within your foods.
An apple, for instance, can cause a lot of problems if you have IBS. That’s because of those FODMAP sugars. The same can be said for wheat bread, dairy products or asparagus. They all can cause a flare up for someone who’s fighting with IBS.
There are a lot of options, though, that can replace the foods you’re eating that cause problems, while still feeling like you aren’t missing out on anything.
Grab a banana or orange instead of an apple or pear. Hard cheese like cheddar or Swiss is better than soft cheeses like brie and fresh mozzarella. Green beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini are perfect to eat instead of asparagus, corn, or even onions. Choose oats, quinoa, or rice, instead of wheat pasta or bread.
By making these little switch ups, your stomach will thank you and give you an internal high-five for working together as a team.
- Go to Your Happy Place
Stress. We all have it, but when you have IBS, it makes life so much worse. The last thing you want to do is have your stress be the culprit for an episode.
When you feel that stress creeping in and your stomach beginning to cramp, stop what you’re doing and take a few deep breaths. That alone can help slow your heart rate, calm you down, and get you to relax.
Another option for getting you to your happy place is to move. Go for a walk or do some form of exercise. Exercising is a fantastic de-stressor and believe it or not, if you have issues with constipation, it’ll help move things along as well.
If your stress is mounting, sit down and face exactly what is getting you wound up. Write down your thoughts, (yes, more writing. It’s cathartic), or talk with someone about it. By acknowledging what’s causing your stress, it will help you overcome those obstacles and begin reducing your stress.
Finally, treat yourself. When was the last time you had “me time?” Taking time for yourself is important not only for your stomach but also for your mind. Go to a movie, get a mani/pedi, go get a blowout and let someone pamper you for once. Knowing and cutting down those stresses is just as important as knowing the foods that are best for your stomach.
By following these three steps, you’ll be on the quick road to gaining control over your IBS and keeping it from gaining control over you. They’re simple to do and what’s great is each step is easy enough to implement immediately. Pay a little extra attention to your foods and stress levels and before you know it, you’ll have a strong handle of what your stomach can and can’t take, and you two will be best friends once again.
If you found this article informative and helpful, be sure to check out the other articles found on the Fill Your Plate blog.