Navigating Nutrition with IBS
GI Society: Canadian Society of Intestinal Research.
Did you know that Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS in the world being at 18% vs 11% globally (2)?
April is known as IBS month. This month has become dedicated to IBS due to the overwhelming number of individuals who have this disease (1).
You might ask, what is IBS? IBS is known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and is a disorder affecting the intestine. It involves difficulty with motility of food moving through the intestines as well as sensitivity in how the brain interprets signals from the intestinal nerves (2). Primary symptoms follow the ABCDs of IBS - abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea (1). IBS affects people of all ages and is seen more in women than men (1).
Dietary choices can be difficult to navigate with IBS. This is because there is no diet that works for everyone. Individuals require different dietary needs and this is where most challenges come into play. Physicians and dietitians over time have come to determine foods that seem to cause problems for the majority of people (3). Diet triggers for IBS constipation include, breads and cereals made with refined grains, processed foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, alcohol and dairy products (4). Diet triggers for IBS diarrhea include, too much fibre (especially the insoluble kind found in the skin of fruits and vegetables), food and drinks with chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, fructose or sorbitol, carbonated drinks, large meals, fried, fatty foods, dairy products and foods with wheat if they are sensitive to gluten (4).
It is common for those with IBS to follow a low FODMAP diet (3). FODMAP stands for fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols. This is due to the fact that these food components may ferment in the gut leading to uncomfortable side effects that mimic or magnify IBS symptoms (3).
If this sounds like you, it is best to talk to your physician who can then refer you to a dietitian for further guidance. The American Gastroenterology Association (AGA) recommends 3 steps for patients to improve communication with their physician.
Step 1: Speak up early. After the onset of symptoms, talk to your doctor not just family and friends (2).
Step 2: Speak up completely. Detail the symptoms to your health care providers (2).
Step 3: Speak up often. Always inform your doctor of your symptoms after new treatment efforts so that alternative treatment approaches can begin (2).
GI Society. (2020). April is IBS awareness month. Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. https://badgut.org/information-centre/a-z-digestive-topics/ibs-awareness/#:~:text=April%20is%20IBS%20Awareness%20Month
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. (2021). What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? https://cdhf.ca/digestive-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/what-is-irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/
GI Society. (2020). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and diet: the foods you can eat. Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. https://badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/ibs-the-foods-you-can-eat/
Khatri, M. (2019). IBS triggers and how to avoid them. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/ibs/ibs-triggers-prevention-strategies