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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Updated: Feb 17

How to treat IBS Naturally

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an intestinal disorder causing pain in the belly, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

The cause of irritable bowel syndrome isn't well understood. A diagnosis is often made based on symptoms. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Some people can control their symptoms by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress. Others will need medication and counseling.

Easing your IBS symptoms starts with avoiding trigger foods and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Including low-FODMAP foods can help you avoid IBS symptoms like gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

What works for someone else may not work for you. But you may find it helpful to eat lean meats, eggs, fish that is rich with omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, homemade bone broth, carrots, bananas, and other low-FODMAP fruits and vegetables. Fermented foods are also good for your gut flora.

Foods to help IBS Symptoms

This article lists proteins, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and other foods that are most likely to help your IBS symptoms. It also includes foods that are low in FODMAPs, meaning that they don't easily ferment with bacteria in your colon and lead to gas, bloating, and pain.

Lean Meats mainly consist of protein. Protein easily digests and gut bacteria doesn't ferment it—which means it won't give you gas. You should be able to eat any of the following with confidence:

  • White meat chicken

  • White meat turkey

  • Pork

  • Lean cuts of beef (sirloin, top round, eye round, bottom round)

Fatty cuts may contain fats or toxins that cause inflammation in your body. Avoid dark meat chicken or turkey and marbled beef cuts if you can. The only exception to this rule is if you are able to eat grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, or free-range poultry. Since these animals have been raised under healthier conditions, some people believe their fat content may actually benefit your gut bacteria.

Eggs Eggs digest easily and are a safe choice for someone with IBS. Eggs can be enjoyed hard-boiled, soft-boiled, scrambled, or poached. Omelets and frittatas can be your meal of choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. That said, not every person's body responds to eggs the same. Some people are sensitive to the proteins in egg whites, while others report that the higher fat content of egg yolks causes a problem. You may need to go through some trial and error to see what works best for you.

Salmon and Other Omega-3 Fish Omega-3 fatty acids play an anti-inflammatory role in the body. Since inflammation may be adding to your IBS symptoms, eating more omega-3s may help. Good fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Anchovies

  • Black cod

  • Herring

  • Mackerel

  • Rainbow trout

  • Sardines

  • Wild-caught salmon

  • Whitefish

Low-FODMAP Vegetables

Based on past experience, people who have IBS tend to avoid vegetables because eating them makes their symptoms worse. However, vegetables are very good for your gut flora, and therefore may be good for your IBS.

If this sounds like you, start by gradually eating more vegetables that are less likely to cause gas and bloating. Luckily, the FODMAP researchers from Monash University in Australia have studied and identified which vegetables fit that bill.

Ideally, you would start with the vegetables on the following list and then slowly broaden the range of vegetables that you eat:

  • Bamboo shoots

  • Bell peppers

  • Broccoli

  • Carrots

  • Celeriac

  • Corn (half a cob)

  • Eggplant

  • Fennel

  • Green beans

  • Parsley

  • Parsnip

  • Potato

  • Scallions (green parts only)

  • Squash

  • Sweet potato

  • Tomato

  • Turnip

  • Water chestnut

  • Zucchini

You may find that cooked vegetables are more gentle on your gut than raw vegetables. You can steam, sauté, or roast them and avoid any spices you are sensitive to.

Low-FODMAP Fruits

Like vegetables, fruits have some nutrients that are good for your gut flora and should be good for your IBS. But as you may have found out the hard way, some fruits are likely to make your IBS symptoms worse.

Choosing low-FODMAP fruits is a safer way to go. Just don't eat too many in one sitting or within one day. Doing so may overwhelm your body's ability to absorb the sugar in fruit without fermentation and gas.

Low-FODMAP fruits:

  • Avocado (limit 1/8 of a whole)

  • Banana

  • Blueberry

  • Cantaloupe

  • Grapes

  • Honeydew melon

  • Kiwi

  • Lemon

  • Lime

  • Mandarin oranges

  • Olives

  • Orange

  • Papaya (pawpaw)

  • Pineapple

  • Raspberry

  • Rhubarb

  • Strawberry

  • Tangelo

Nuts Nuts are a good source of fiber, protein, and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Don't be swayed by the old myth that nuts make you fat. Nuts make you feel full after a meal or snack so you'll be less likely to keep snacking. Nuts do contain unsaturated fats—but this fat is good for you as it lowers cholesterol. It is also good for your gut flora and may therefore help your IBS. You can enjoy nuts by the handful or in the form of nut butters. Here are some low-FODMAP nuts to get you started:

  • Almonds (limit 10)

  • Brazil nuts

  • Hazelnuts (limit 10)

  • Macadamia nuts

  • Pecans

  • Pine nuts

  • Walnuts

Seeds Of all the various types of seeds, chia seeds and flaxseed seem to benefit people with IBS most, especially those who tend to get constipated. Both seeds are a good source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. You can sprinkle them on top of salads or oatmeal, or add them to your smoothies, just make sure to ground the flaxseeds up first. For snacking, the following seeds are low in FODMAPs:

  • Pumpkin

  • Sunflower

Fermented Foods Fermented Foods contains many natural strains of probiotics the bacteria that are good for you. Try adding the following foods into your daily diet:

  • Fermented drinks, like kefir or kombucha

  • Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut and kimchi

  • Yogurt (without added sugar)

Bone Broth For centuries, broth made from animal bones was a staple in human diets. Homemade bone broths especially are thought to contain nutrients that are healthy for gut flora and the intestinal lining. There's little research to back these claims up, but you certainly cannot beat a warm cup of soup to soothe IBS symptoms.

Having IBS means making some changes to what you eat. You may need to cut out some of your favorite foods, stop eating junk food, and use less sauces or spices. You don't, however, have to stop enjoying mealtime.

Choose foods that make you feel good, avoid your triggers, and try new recipes that contain low-FODMAP foods. You might also find it helpful to use a low-FODMAP Diet App.

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Written by:

Tammy Drummond-Rowland, R.N.H.N.

Holistic Nurse and Nurse Coach

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