7 tips for nutritional management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In our earlier blog post we had a look at some risk factors for the Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Here, we’ll take a look at some ways in which one can manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome by eating well.

  1. Food Diary – Maintaining proper records of symptoms along with specific food intake is the primary management tool, which is very useful for the physician as well as the patient. An effective treatment strategy can be planned if cause effect relationship between food intake and symptoms is understood clearly. Hence, it is necessary to maintain a 24-hour food diary containing the food items consumed specifying exact quantities.
  2. Fibre supplements – Sufficient intake of fibre can help relive symptoms of diarrhoea and constipation. Soluble fibre from food sources such as peeled apples, pears, beans, citrus fruits, gourd vegetables, oats, etc can help to ease movement of intestinal contents. Insoluble fibre from wheat bran, whole grain cereals and millets, psyllium husk, fruits and vegetables with peels, etc can relieve constipation
  3. Fluid intake – Ensuring adequate water intake of minimum 6-8 glasses in a day is extremely beneficial in facilitating bowel movement and removal of waste products. Also, fluids in the form of soups, moongdal water, and kanji may be consumed under the guidance of a dietician. Carbonated beverages or artificially sweetened juices may cause adverse reactions and should be avoided completely.
  4. Low fat foods – High fat foods such as farsaans, finger chips, samosas, pastries are difficult to digest and may lead to aggravation of symptoms. It is preferable to use minimal amounts of oil or ghee even in preparing regular food including chapatti, dals and vegetables.
  5. Small frequent meals – Consuming 6-7 small meals in a day is advised instead of 3 large meals in order to reduce the load on the intestine
  6. Probiotics – Intestine is host to several friendly bacteria that aid in nutrient absorption and promote the growth and repair of intestinal cells. These bacteria are synthesised in the intestine itself and may be supplied externally through diet as well. Probiotic food such as curds and yoghurt contain live micro-organisms, which are beneficial for the body. The use of probiotics in the form of yoghurt, buttermilk or supplements has shown to provide tremendous relief from IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, bowel dysfunction, incomplete evacuation, straining, and gas.
  7. Peppermint oil –  A natural remedy suggested for IBS is peppermint, which is a carminative that helps in eliminating gas. It may also help to reduce contraction of the intestinal muscles. Peppermint oil in the form of capsules may be taken by IBS patients under medical supervision.

There is no direct pharmacological treatment for IBS, only that the symptoms can be controlled somewhat using medications but it does not resolve the condition completely. Due to the frequent bowel disturbances, it may become extremely difficult for IBS patients to lead normal life and undertake travelling. In such cases, it is best to prevent re-occurrence of acute IBS symptoms by maintaining a light, healthy diet and stress-free lifestyle.

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