Your body notices everything. From that one fry, you sucked on to hefty Sunday brunches. Every decision you make at the dinner table elicits a reaction from your gut. There is nothing more baffling than following a diet rigorously, exercising, taking your supplements, probiotics and ruining it all with a spoonful of ice cream. These culprits could flare up your belly and bring you spiralling down from all the appreciation you are bestowing your body with a healthy lifestyle. Sketch out a plan to avoid gorging on these sabotaging foods by understanding your triggers.
Although some food groups already have a reputation as IBS triggering foods, it differs for each individual. Keeping a track of your food triggers through a food diary, paying attention to your body’s needs and prompts can make you diligent in giving the right nourishment to your gut. Our lead nutritionist, Dr Shweta is here to help you make changes targeted at resolving each of your IBS symptoms.
Dr Shweta’s Tips On How to Identify Your Trigger Foods
- Writing a food journal can be very effective in finding out what works for you. Write down everything you eat and jot down how your body responded to it, Looking back at it after collecting data for a week or two will give a clear picture of trigger foods.
- Look out for foods that cause uncomfortable symptoms like gas, heartburn, stuffy feeling, constipation and diarrhoea.
- Ditch foods that have proven to cause digestive issues, how much ever you feel like indulging in them, refrain from those foods for a little while and see how your digestion functions without them.
- You can reintroduce the eliminated foods after 2 weeks to understand the impact they have on your gut. This gives you chance to assesses, how much of it you can tolerate and how much amount aggravates your IBS.
- Give a gap of a minimum of three days when you are trying out new food groups, if you decide to try out a new ingredient today, it’s best to wait for three days and then introduce another new element to your diet.
- If you don’t notice issues within three days, then that food is not a trigger and can be safely eaten. If you do notice issues, it is best to avoid that food going forward.
1. Diet Triggers For IBS Constipation
IBS - C is a non-threatening gastrointestinal disorder that is accompanied by bloating, infrequent stool and abdominal pain. They can be extremely uncomfortable and interfere with your day-to-day activities. Since there isn’t a cure, relieving your IBS symptoms depends heavily on lifestyle habits and diet. A good lifestyle that compliments your medications can go a long way in curbing those painful symptoms of IBS
Foods to Limit
- Bread and cereals with refined grains
- Processed foods like cakes and biscuits
- Carbonated drinks
- Coffee or caffeine content beverages
- High protein and low fibre foods
- Dairy products with an emphasis on cheese
Diet Recommendation for IBS - C
- Gradual intake of higher fibre through whole grain bread, vegetable, beans and cereals
- Foods that are naturally high in sugar sorbitol like dried plums, prunes, flax seeds and lots of water intake
- Foods that are low carn but super healthy like buckwheat, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, beetroots, banana, apple, oranges and blueberries
- Eating Breakfast activates your colon, so it’s important not to skip meals
- Eating in a rush can trigger IBS - C, plan and eat at a leisurely pace
2. Diet Triggers For IBS Diarrhoea
IBS - D is a type of IBS disorder with stools that are often loose and frequent, long with abdominal cramps and bloating. Multiple factors cause IBS - D, the rapid contractions in the intestine results in faster movement of stool. For reasons unknown a prior infection in the gut can cause IBS - D, it can pertain for weeks, months or even years after a gut infection. There are a few research studies that suggest the lack of gut microbiome could also lead to IBS (1). Occurrence of unrelated symptoms is also a possibility - difficulty with sexual function, irregular menstrual periods, increased or more urgent need to pass urine or pain in other parts of the body. Making minor changes can help says, Dr Shweta, she assures that giving up on your favourite foods is unnecessary, but instead fall back on alternatives.
Foods To Limit
- High fibre and Insoluble fibre that is found in the skin of fruits, and vegetables can aggravate your symptoms
- Beverages and food with chocolate, fructose, caffeine, alcohol and sorbitol
- Fatty and fried food
- Individuals who are lactose intolerant also suffer from IBS - D, staying away from dairy products could do some good
- Individuals allergic to gluten should stay away from wheat products
- Gas triggering foods like broccoli, cabbage, onions, asparagus, wheat gem, raisins and celery
- Eat more soluble fibre foods found in avocados, blueberries, sprouts, bananas, carrots, chickpeas, eggplant, green peas, kiwi, lentils, oats, okra, oranges, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, walnuts and zucchini
- Eating foods in smaller proportions. Avoid Having heavy or large meals at one sitting
- Restrain from eating foods with contrasting temperatures. For instance having ice-cold juice and steamy soup in the same meal
3. Stress and Anxiety Triggers for IBS
The gut and brain association is backed up by many studies across the world (2). Once you grasp the connection between these two vital organs, managing your mental state is soon to go up the list of your priorities. Stress and anxiety can make the gut hyper-aware of the spasms in the colon. Stress also affects the immune system. Although it’s not totally clear how stress ignites gut health symptoms, about 60% of IBS patients have confessed stress to be one of their many triggers of digestive issues points out Dr Shweta. Upset stomach goes hand in hand with insomnia, irritability and dizziness.
Foods to Limit
- White flour found in bread and rice
- Although salt is a sinfully good way to flavour your food, excessive use can trigger anxiety
- Processed meat pumps a lot of preservatives into your bloodstreams
- Cortisol levels spike every time you have foods packed with sugar
- Caffeine increases blood pressure and keeps you from getting good sleep
- Bad news for anyone who loves Fried food and alcohol, decreases the levels of serotonin and increases anxiety symptoms
- Herbal tea like chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rose or lemon
- Antioxidant-rich indulgence dark chocolate
- Avocados help to reduce stress and boosts concentration
- Citrus fruits and berries are loaded with vitamins and minerals
- Manage your stress with healthy habits like visualisation, meditation, journaling, exercise and music
4. Menstrual triggers for IBS
It is quite common for females to recognise their symptoms of IBS to worsen during the menstrual cycle. The symptoms aggravate during different times of the menstrual cycle. Although there isn’t a clear-cut explanation as to why this happens, it is shown to be allied with hormones. The cell receptors for female sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone are present throughout the gastrointestinal tract. The hormonal fluctuations during menstruating influence your digestive function. Women without IBS also experience bloating, diarrhoea and nausea during this time.
“Moderation is key,” says Dr Shweta, avoid excessive eating of the following food groups, as we tend to overindulge in our craving during our time of the month.
Foods To Limit
- Dairy, fatty acids and fried food
- Caffeine, carbonated drinks, and alcohol
- Having too much spicy and too sweet foods
- Foods that cause bloating like chickpeas, kidney beans, legumes
Diet Recommendations During Periods
- Prefer to eat soft boiled eggs over hard-boiled eggs. Consuming egg yolk can provide you with iron, vitamins and fat-soluble fibres
- Citrus fruits as an alternative to sugary treats provide relief from bloating
- Other fruits that help in bloating are watermelon, plum and figs
- Oatmeal is a great option for an upset stomach
- Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, is good comfort food
A healthy diet with a mix of carbohydrates, protein, water, vitamins and soluble fibre enables your digestive system to work more effectively. While experiencing symptoms like bloating, nausea and indigestion, avoiding your trigger foods become more important. Keep a journal to keep track of your pattern and do the detective work to avert those food groups.