We don't want you to think that you can only eat bread and drink water if you have IBS. Because everyone's IBS symptoms are different, the best way to test your sensitivities to specific foods is to try eating them in isolation and monitoring your body's response.
Below we share a few tips that will guide your toward specific foods to eat to keep your GI tract feeling its finest!
Specific Foods to Eat for IBS Relief
- Lean meat, chicken, and fish shouldn't cause issues: Unlike fatty foods, these protein sources are lower in fat (and as a result, milder on your GI tract) and should be the staple of most of your meals
- When you eat vegetables, cook them first! We're nutritionists, so of course we believe that your veggies are important. If you have IBS, eat cooked veggies. The cooking process breaks down the fibers within the vegetable tissue, making them easier to digest. No need to boil. Steaming, sauteeing, and roasting are great ways to prepare cooked veggies. The following veggies qualify as low-FODMAP foods: carrots, zucchini, butternut and acorn squash, lettuce, spinach, eggplant, cucumbers, bananas
- When eating fruits, remove the skin: This preparation step will reduce insoluble fiber. Your stomach will thank you later
- Love savory foods? You don't have to give up on cheese. Your stomach can better digest:
- Hard cheeses: during the manufacturing process, most of the lactose is removed from the curd, which makes the final product easier to break down. Hard cheeses include Cheddar, Camembert, Cheshire, Pecorino Style, Swiss, Brie, Blue Cheese, Harvati, or Parmesan. All of these cheese qualify as low-FODMAP foods.
- Lactose-free milk: lactose-free milk has come a long way since it first hit the market. Because lactose is removed, it can be easier for for you to digest. Our top pick has name-brand recognition: Lactaid
- Lactose-Free Ice Cream: Breyer's makes a lactose-free ice cream, and our clients have told us that it scratches the ice cream itch! Try it and let us know what you think
- Low-lactose or lactose-free yogurt (or kefir): During the production process, regular yogurt is strained multiple times. The straining removes the why (which in turn procuces lactose). Straining gives yogurt its creamy texture, so it really kills two birds with one stone. Lactose-free yogurt brands include Stonyfield and Green Valley Organics
General eating tips and behaviors for IBS Diet
- Drink plenty of fluids (i.e. water!) to help alleviate constipation. Studies have shown that water and non-caffeinated teas (such as herbal teas) can help avoid IBS symptoms. Also, do not drink carbonated beverages! That's asking for trouble.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals... The logic here is pretty simple. Smaller meals are easier to digest!
- We also suggest eating more fiber. Fiber may mitigate constipation in IBS because it makes stool soft and easier to pass. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults should get 22 to 34 grams of fiber a day. We recommend focusing on foods modestly high in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal, oat bran, oranges, strawberries, nuts, and carrots. Keep in mind the major difference between the two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble:
- Soluble fiber: Found in beans, fruit, and oat products. Research suggests that soluble fiber is more helpful in relieving IBS symptoms
- Insoluble fiber: Found in whole-grain products and vegetables
To help your body acclimate to eating more fiber, add higher fiber foods to your diet bit by bit. Blasting your system with fiber can cause gas, which can trigger IBS symptoms. Adding fiber to your diet slowly, by 2 to 3 grams a day, may help prevent gas and bloating.
- Try a low FODMAP diet: In addition to the tips we shared above, one of the most common diets to control IBS is a low FODMAP diet. Read more about our low FODMAP recommendations.
With a little bit of planning, you can build a routine based upon foods that won't trigger your IBS symptoms. When it comes to the basics, keep it simple with your protein, fruits, and veggies. You can also experiment with more savory food, including hard cheeses and lactose-free ice cream. Is there anything we missed? Leave us a comment below!
Have you joined our IBS Support Group yet? Led by Kaitlyn Willwerth MS, RD, use this Q&A group as a forum to learn from experts and support the community.