IBS diet: what to eat
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common digestive complaint. Nutritionist Kerry Torrens offers a breakfast that may help sufferers, and explains how a few key ingredients can help
It's unclear why IBS affects some people and not others. While symptoms vary, they usually include diarrhoea, constipation and bloating. Common triggers include stress or disruption to the good bacteria in the gut.
Some sufferers can manage their symptoms with diet and lifestyle changes, which include eating at regular times and cutting back on coffee, tea and alcohol. It's also a good idea to replace roughage like bran with gentler, soluble forms of fibre found in bananas, apples, pears, oats, rye and barley. This may help to alleviate bloating and regulate bowel movements.
An example of a beneficial breakfast for IBS sufferers is our Apple & linseed porridge, which may help ease symptoms thanks to some key ingredients.
As well as oats and apples, this porridge uses linseeds (also known as flaxseeds), which is another good source of soluble fibre. It's worth grinding linseeds before using (or buy the ready-ground variety) as this helps your body to absorb all their great properties, including omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to soothe irritation. Linseed also supplies the types of fibre that your good gut bacteria thrive on; other foods with these prebiotic properties include ground almonds and chia seeds.This porridge is finished with a generous dollop of probiotic yogurt, also useful for keeping the gut healthy. Eating naturally fermented foods like yogurt, which contain 'live' cultures, may help restore healthy levels of gut bacteria.
Remember, you should make dietary changes gradually so you don't aggravate an already sensitive system, and it's important to visit your GP to rule out any other health issues as soon as you experience a change to your bowel habits.
Before you try this recipe...
Our cookery team, supported by our nutritionist, devised this recipe after discussing this issue with a GP. Unfortunately, IBS is a condition where one dietary approach does not suit all sufferers. That's because symptoms vary considerably and because there is no definitive cause. Our aim was to devise a single recipe that would meet the most common needs as highlighted by our discussions with the GP. With this in mind some IBS sufferers certainly achieve relief from the inclusion of the gentler soluble fibre like the pectin found in some fruit like apples, the fibre in oats and ground seeds – these sufferers find that including soluble fibre helps regulate their system. Other sufferers are advised to follow a low-fibre diet for a period of time, as this can calm an overactive digestive system and alleviate some of their symptoms.
The low FODMAP approach is an interesting development and appears to be proving successful but it can be confusing and the dietary changes really require personalised professional advice. Many IBS sufferers find that including probiotic or live yogurt can help relieve symptoms potentially by improving the health of the gut environment – more studies are needed to identify the specific species and strains of bacteria which may lead to these benefits. If in doubt, always talk to your GP.
Discover more about the low FODMAP diet.
This article was reviewed on 6th July 2020 by Tracey Raye.
A qualified nutritionist (MBANT), Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
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