If you are an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferer, one bad food choice can literally turn your stomach into angry knots with painful cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. But the right choice can be the key to a calm and settled bowel instead of an irritable one.
Many studies, including ones from journals like Gasteroentology and the Journal of American Dietetic Association have linked IBS to fatty foods, dairy and fructose, the sugar found in high fructose corn syrup. So, it’s no wonder that IBS is on the rise, given the number of these foods in our modern day diets. But no matter what the food trigger is, I can say for sure that food is also the remedy.
You can get to the bottom of your bowel issues by starting with a clean slate, so to speak. Eliminate any foods that cause discomfort and introduce bowel-balancing foods to help heal your digestive tract. Consider a few simple natural dietary adjustments:
- Consume more fermented foods and probiotics. Our ancestors ate true unpasteurized fermented foods out of necessity, filled with healthy bacteria. But our modern-day food processing has literally stripped these foods of their digestion-enhancing properties. Recent studies have confirmed what our ancestors knew, that 50-70 percent of people who include more fermented vegetables, milk products, and even unpasteurized beers in their diets found relief from their symptoms. The reason is that these foods act as a balance against the toxic bacteria causing all the irritation. My favorite fermented food (beside unpasteurized beer, of course) is homemade sauerkraut. I keep a fresh batch going almost constantly, and some already made in the fridge at all times. It provides one of the widest varieties of beneficial bacteria that are known to protect against everything from bowel troubles to cancer. It’s inexpensive and easy to make and keep. A little salt, cabbage, and a crock are all that’s needed.
- Focus on fiber. Remember that fiber comes in different forms. If you can’t handle wheat or other grains that can trigger IBS, try eating more water-soluble fibers found in flaxseed, fruits, vegetables and legumes like beans and peas. These fibrous foods help stimulate the cleansing of the colon.
- Avoid troublesome foods. Sugar and foods high in sugar like fruit juices can be IBS triggers, as well as highly acidic foods like tomatoes and tomato sauces. Saltwater fish and fish from lakes contaminated by acid rain or canned-tuna high in mercury should be avoided as well.
- Try a little peppermint. Peppermint can soothe IBS in several ways: It works as a disinfectant, cleansing improperly digested foods, and it relaxes digestive tract muscles, easing the colon spasms associated with IBS. I always keep some peppermint tea around the house to treat an upset stomach, but don’t drink it every day. Use it only when you’ve got an upset stomach since drinking peppermint tea too frequently can minimize its effects.
Now, it’s your turn: How do you manage irritable bowel syndrome through food?