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What Foods Should You Avoid if You Have IBS?

IBS is a painful and often embarrassing condition. But a few dietary changes can help provide relief.

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No one really wants to talk about IBS. I mean, the word bowel alone grosses me out. But we’re all adults here, and IBS is a real condition that impacts nearly ten percent of the population worldwide – and those are just the folks who talk to their doctors about it. So we need to talk about what causes IBS and what you can do to manage your symptoms and live comfortably.

What Is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the large intestine. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of IBS can include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. Although IBS doesn’t increase your risk for colorectal cancer, it is a long-term condition that can cause serious discomfort and impact your way of life. But changing your diet and lifestyle can help you manage your symptoms.

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Now That I Know What It Is, What Can I Do About It?

Although there is no universal diet that can help with IBS, your gastroenterologist can help you determine which foods have the greatest impact on your symptoms. Keeping a food diary for two to three weeks of how what you eat affects your symptoms can also help you narrow down the problems.

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What’s The Deal With FODMAP?

FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. It’s also a long way to describe sugars that can irritate the small intestine and cause cramping, bloating and gas. High FODMAP foods include, but are not limited to:

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  • Foods with excess fructose (including apples, pears, asparagus and processed foods with high fructose corn syrup)
  • Foods with lactose (including regular and low-fat milk and yogurt, ice cream and soft cheeses)
  • Foods containing fructans (including rye, wheat and legumes)

Researchers in Australia determined that a low FODMAP diet is one of the best ways to relieve IBS symptoms. And according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, following a low FODMAP diet has helped improve symptoms in between 52 and 86 percent of people living with IBS.

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How Does It Work?

It’s important to note that a low FODMAP diet isn’t about cutting foods out completely and it isn’t a permanent change. Instead, it’s a process that helps IBS patients identify the specific items that trigger their symptoms. Work with your doctor or a nutritionist to develop a plan to eliminate all FODMAP foods for a few weeks. Then, you will slowly reintroduce one food item at a time as you figure out which are really harmful. Once you’ve done those steps, you can put together a diet that works best.

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