IBS Causes & Diet for IBS

Causes Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome That Are Dietary Related:

IBS FOOD TRIGGERS: The Most Important Of These Are: Caffeine, Dairy Products, High fat and fried Foods, Oils, Shortening, Butter, Fats, Red Meat, Chocolate (caffeine), Coffee, Regular and Decaffeinated.

POOR FOOD COMBINATIONS: Many times combining carbohydrates and proteins or consuming fruits after bread, cereals or other grains can wreak havoc on our gastrointestinal health. It is also fair to say that this is augmented in people who have pre-existing bowel problems. Learn about  Food Combining Principles here.

Other Causes Are...

STRESSthat is difficult to deal with and/or emotional traumas: These emphasize the sympathetic nervous system response, causing irritation and excitability to the intestinal tract. 

LACK OF REST OR TROUBLE SLEEPING: This can be a big factor, it aggravates the sympathetic nervous system and reduces serotonin levels.

COLD FOODS OR LIQUIDS:  Right out of the refrigerator or otherwise. When a food is cold, it can immediately cause a spastic colon or contraction in the intestines and this is precisely what an IBS sufferer has too much of.  If you are keeping a food diary (which is great for keeping track of what evokes your IBS relief) and have noticed that a food sometimes causes a flare up and other times doesn't, it would be important to note whether it was warm, room temperature or cold.  Some foods are not as much of a trigger when cold and vice versa. But you can take a non-stimulating food at room temperature and make it stimulating by consuming it cold or hot.you had a coffee cold, it would probably cause more intense irritable bowel syndrome symptoms than if it were warm because by consuming it cold you are subjected to its contracting factor.  If it is warm, it may inhibit its stimulating quality slightly, this is because warmth has muscle relaxing effect. These reactions can be individually specific and are not universal. This is why it is so important for each person to construct their own reliable diet for irritable bowel syndrome.

UNBALANCED BREATHING PATTERNS:This can not be overstated. This is one of the most elusive causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  These days, people, in general, have very restricted breathing patterns and this can ignite the sympathetic nervous system with various devastating effects. Based on observations over the last seven years, I believe there will come a time when research will recognize the many physical problems that are stemming from irregular breathing patterns.  Irregular breathing patterns restrict oxygen flow to the brain and digestive systems which can only aggravate IBS symptoms and are a significant contributor to the causes of indigestion. Keep in mind, if something aggravates your bowels, it is having the same effect on your immune system and this can lead to additional sickness. Research now shows that the majority of the immune system is based in the intestines.


SEROTONIN LEVELS seem to play an important role in the severity of IBS symptoms.Research indicates that 95% of the serotonin in the body is in the intestines.  Research also indicates IBS sufferers have intestinal serotonin that is not being transported properly (as is what happens in the brain with depressive disorders).  This can cause erratic type effects on the intestines and irritation of the sympathetic nervous system, making the activity of the bowels sporadic and uncomfortable.  Again, this data would indicate that an appropriate IBS diet that addresses the causes of irritable bowel syndrome, and along with exercise, may help serotonin be received properly on receptors and help improve the IBS symptoms.

Proper diet, exercise, managing stress are the main treatments for IBS!

Always consult with your medical professional to rule out some of the other gastrointestinal health problems that can be mistaken for IBS. Some of these can be very serious digestive issues (colorectal cancer, Diverticulitis, etc.). Experience shows that along with an IBS diet and using exercise and supplements can significantly reduce or eliminate IBS symptoms.


The Dietary Ways of Controlling IBS:

FOOD COMBINING:  Adopting food combining principles into a diet for irritable bowel syndrome can do wonders for the symptoms of IBS.

AVOIDING TRIGGER FOODS: See listed above foods that are causes of Irritable Bowel Diet page.

DRINK ENOUGH WATER: This is critical to a proper IBS diet.  Preferably, water should be consumed at room temperature or warmer. This avoids the triggering of symptoms in the most sensitive sufferers of IBS.  Sometimes the contracting effect of the quality of 'cold' is enough to set off IBS symptoms. Check out our page on Effects of Dehydration to understand how the lack of water can be severely detrimental to your health in general.

Dietary Supplements and Other Options for Controlling IBS:

TAKE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES: Digestive enzymes as a supplement are a necessary addition to the diet for irritable bowel syndrome. Best Digestive Enzymes Supplements for indigestion and IBS.DigestEasy is extremely gentle formula - formulated for the most sensitive stomachs. It is a comprehensive blend of 15 digestive enzymes, that is 100% hypoallergenic and vegetarian (including the capsule). It is VERY Effective at breaking down all food groups you eat: fats, carbohydrates, proteins and fibers, and also helps better assimilate vitamins and minerals.

TAKE PROBIOTICS: These are the beneficial bowel bacteria we keep hearing so much about in the news these days. They can be a beneficial supplement in addition to an irritable bowel syndrome diet plan because of their ability to help balance the intestinal flora thus reducing food irritations and overactivity of the immune system. Additionally, probiotics can keep infectious agents and Candida Albicans bacteria from growing out of control. In my experience, this supplement is a must for IBS sufferers and it is effective in helping stabilize IBS symptoms (like constipation) in most cases. 

CALCIUM and MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENTS: These are separate mineral supplements that are commonly taken as a two in one formulation, a 2 to 1 ratio with calcium being the 2 and magnesium being the 1 (i.e. 500mg of calcium and 250mg of magnesium).  This supplement can be effective as a stabilizing factor for the contract-relax activity if the intestines (peristalsis) and for many people, these two minerals have a positive effect on reducing IBS symptoms.  One thing I would like to point out is that calcium citrate appears to better tolerated and assimilated than calcium carbonate. Many times, I have seen clients have negative allergic-type reactions to calcium carbonate, as it appears to be more difficult to assimilate into the intestines.  Also, some people may be outright sensitive to the element calcium, which causes their symptoms to become worse. Regardless, when these minerals are not balanced or not in sufficient quantity with an IBS diet, it may be necessary to supplement them. So, when looking for a product, you preferably want to find one where the calcium is of the calcium citrate type. If you can tolerate the calcium then it is a valuable addition to a diet for Irritable bowel syndrome.

THE USE OF DEGLYCERIZED LICORICE: It is documented that DGL Licorice has a unique ability to protect the digestive tract from corrosive stomach acids.  Additionally, DGL increases the number of mucus-secreting cells in the stomach, providing an improved environment that is conducive to healing.  These beneficial qualities make DGL a useful adjunct for overall support of the stomach and intestinal lining. DGL acts as a calming agent on the entire GI tract, therefore, affecting IBS in a positive way.

EXERCISE: Exercise has been shown to reduce IBS symptoms. This can be as simple as 30 minute walks 3-5 times a week.  The statistics on the benefits of exercise to health are numerous and staggering in benefit. Exercise can increase the reception of serotonin, reducing or eliminating the need for SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) medications.  It is important to note that even mild exercise several times a week is all it takes to improve overall health. So, don't be concerned about excelling at exercise, just make a commitment to do a little and reap the benefits.

DEEP ABDOMINAL BREATHING: For some people, this works very well. This is one of the fastest ways I know of to temporarily reduce IBS symptoms.  Deep abdominal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system (calms the 'fight or flight' sympathetic nervous system response) by pulling more oxygen throughout the entire body and providing a mini-massage to internal organs. This massage occurs when the abdominal organs are compressed on the inhalation and released on exhalation. This provides a regulatory pace for the intestine to follow and relax.

PEPPERMINT OIL: It is used as a concentrated muscle relaxant. Since the GI tract is one continuous smooth muscle, sometimes muscle relaxants can be helpful.  Peppermint oil is best taken as enteric-coated capsules, to avoid relaxing the esophageal sphincter which can cause acid reflux symptoms. Clinically, it has been used to inhibit colonic spasm during endoscopy.

ACACIA POWDER: Acacia, a soluble fiber, is made from organic fiber which comes from the gum of the acacia tree. As well as its properties as a fiber supplement, it is also marketed as a 'prebiotic', which means that it increases good gut flora for optimal gastrointestinal health (the friendly bacteria in the gut).  Many people seem to be marketing Acacia for IBS. My experience has been hit or miss, some people are so sensitive to food allergies that this may not be tolerated well. It is fair to say, though, that it may work well in some individuals. IBS can be so unpredictable that the only way to know if it will help you is to try it. Keep in mind if you have a history of negative reactions to supplemental fibers, that this may irritate your IBS.  If your irritable bowel diet includes enough fruits and vegetable you may really not need an additional fiber supplement.

HEAT: Heat therapy can be used in an attempt to relax the intestines.  Apply moist heat to the abdominal area, either during a flare-up or before heading into an environment where you suspect the stress level may trigger symptoms.  This approach, at times, may be helpful to pre-relax the intestines before irritable bowel syndrome symptoms have a chance to begin. Though, experience tells us that this can be a hit or miss approach.

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