If you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you’ve probably tried just about everything to fix your digestion, feel better, and get on with your life. You know the symptoms — gas, bloating, pain, diarrhea, constipation… For people with IBS, these symptoms can take over and dictate how you spend your time, where you go, and even how you view yourself.
I’ve found that many of the people who come to me for help with their IBS are willing to do the work. They’re willing to give up troublesome foods, take supplements, and change their lifestyle.
And they’ve tried all those things. But there’s a problem. No matter how many sacrifices and tweaks you make, if you’re starting with bad information, those adjustments are not going to do you any good.
My mission as a practitioner is to help as many people as I can to overcome IBS and get back to living their lives the way they choose. I want you to feel better so much that I created a resource guide for anyone with IBS to help you navigate the challenges and feel better sooner.
And in that same spirit, I want to take some time this month to dig into the common myths and misconceptions that keep people stuck in their IBS symptoms.
Some of what you learn this month might surprise you. But when you’ve got the right information, you can stop wasting your time on the wrong actions and finally make the changes that will genuinely help you feel better. Let’s start off with a bang.
I said what I said. And it’s true.
I know it seems counterintuitive. Certainly eating healthy must make a difference, right? There’s no way that skipping the drive thru and eating a home cooked meal couldn’t help IBS at least a little bit… certainly…
But the truth is — eating “healthier” isn’t going to help your IBS. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a functional nutritionist and I am a big believer in dietary improvements and healthy eating. There are tons of benefits to switching your diet over from junk food and processed snacks to whole, nutrient-dense foods that fuel your body effectively.
✔ Balance blood sugar and improve insulin resistance
✔ Boost energy
✔ Help with weight loss
✔ Improve sleep
✔ Reduce inflammation
✔ Improve cardiovascular health
✔ And so many more…
But eating “healthy” does NOT improve IBS.
To understand why just eating “healthy” doesn’t help IBS, let’s talk about what IBS actually is. The truth? We don’t know for sure. There isn’t one universal cause or combination of symptoms. If you have IBS, it may have been triggered by a one-time event, or a variety of things.
? Issues with how the GI muscles move food along in your digestive system.
? A past infection — the onset of IBS can result from an episode of severe diarrhea caused by a virus or bacteria.
? An overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. If you’d like more information on this, check out the series of articles on my blog about SIBO.
? Imbalances in the microscopic organisms that live in your intestine (gut microbiome).
? Childhood trauma or a stressful event early in life.
? Chronic stress — when your nervous system spends too much time in fight or flight mode.
IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects your digestive system. And as such, it requires specific treatment and adjustments to your diet. I definitely recommend my clients make dietary changes — but they aren’t the changes that you might expect.
Here are just a few of the healthy foods that might make your IBS symptoms WORSE:
Whole grain bread
These foods can be problematic for people with IBS because they are high in FODMAPs — fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are nondigestible carbohydrates that tend to draw water into the intestines and cause fermentation in the gut. For many people, FODMAPs are a healthy addition to the diet that provide fiber and nutrients that nourish the microbiome.
But if you’ve got IBS, FODMAPs can trigger symptoms like stomach pain, bloating & gas, and bowel issues including constipation, diarrhea, or both.
You may be thinking that this is the answer to your IBS woes. But IBS is a complex condition. While eliminating FODMAPs may help your symptoms, it won’t address the root cause of your IBS. Plus, giving up all FODMAPs permanently has a number of disadvantages.
FODMAPs are everywhere. And they’re hard to avoid. So giving them up can be daunting and discouraging. In fact, I don’t recommend that my patients entirely eliminate them at all. Yes, FODMAPs can be troublesome. But they also provide you with a variety of nutrients your body needs.
In my practice, I often utilize the low FODMAP diet. Occurring in 3 distinct phases, this diet is a great way to address the issues that FODMAPs can cause, while still making sure that you get the nutrients you need.
But the low FODMAP diet is not a good thing to DIY. First, it’s extremely complicated. FODMAPs are everywhere and they’re really hard to avoid. The low FODMAP diet can also be problematic if you don’t know what you’re doing. Because FODMAPs provide important nutrition, it’s possible to end up with nutritional deficiencies or a damaged microbiome if you give up too many FODMAP foods or stay in the elimination phase for too long.
The low FODMAP diet should only be taken on under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. An experienced practitioner can help you navigate the nuances of the low FODMAP diet, while also pinpointing and addressing what caused your IBS in the first place.
If you’re ready to tackle your IBS head-on and find long-term relief, let’s talk.