The Plan for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Use these steps to treat irritable bowel syndrome and chronic bloating.

Posted on | By Robynne K. Chutkan, MD, FASGE | Comments ()
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The Foods Causing Your Constipation or Diarrhea (3:42)

Step 1: Eliminate Your Gut Triggers

The first and most important step is to eliminate your gut triggers. What are gut triggers? Gut triggers are the foods that can cause IBS symptoms. In irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C), these are the foods that bind you up and slow everything down. In irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D), these are the foods that aren’t getting properly broken down and absorbed—instead they are fermented by bacteria in the colon and pushed out too fast.

For those who suffer from constipation, eliminate processed carbohydrates. When grains are processed, they are stripped of its bran and germ, which contains all the fiber and nutrients. Instead, you’re left with a lot of empty carbs, which stops you up and leaves you with no fiber to bulk up your stool.

For those who suffer from diarrhea, eliminate dairy for two weeks. Many people with IBS-D don’t realize they are lactose intolerant. In fact, 70 percent of us don’t make enough of an enzyme called lactase. Lactase has the job of digesting the sugars in dairy products and when you aren’t making enough, undigested lactose sits in the gut and gets broken down by bacteria causing gas, bloat, and diarrhea.

Step 2: Eat a Motility Helper at Breakfast

For the constipation type, these are the foods that will bulk up your stool and get you moving for the day. The easiest way to do this is to incorporate a cup of steel-cut oats into your breakfast. The fiber will produce a bigger, softer stool as opposed to the pebbly, hard kind. But, it’s important to not take on too much fiber too fast because it can backfire by making you feel even more full and uncomfortable. A simple thing to do on a Sunday is to make a big batch and divide your oats into muffin tins—top with a variety of fun fruits and nuts and put in your freezer—pop one out every morning.

For the diarrhea type, thickening the stool is the goal, and there’s a really easy way to do this—through apples. Simply heat up some coconut oil on the stove, add some slices of peeled apple, cook until soft and sprinkle with cinnamon. It’s delicious and a great way to add bulk to your stool. 

Step 3: Turn Your Prebiotics Into Synbiotics

What’s a synbiotic? Well, we all know how probiotics are good, live bacteria for our gut. And prebiotics are the food for your beneficial gut bacteria. Synbiotics are the powerhouse combo of pre- and probiotics. In addition to being good food for gut bacteria, they also provide significant amounts of live bacteria themselves. This step works for both IBS-C and IBS-D.

To transform your prebiotics into synbiotics at home, you can take any prebiotic veggie and simply add a teaspoon of salt. For example, chop up some carrots, asparagus, and onions. Put them in a mason jar and cover them in water. Add a teaspoon of salt, cover with paper towel and rubber band and let sit on your counter for a week. All that good bacteria will start to grow and turn your prebiotic into a synbiotic. You don’t need to buy expensive probiotics or funky-smelling kimchi. It’s so easy to do at home! They’ll keep for one month in your fridge.

For more information on irritable bowel syndrome and ways to diagnose and treat it, check out Gutbliss.com.

Related: 

The Regimen Instructions

The Gut-Check Plan to Heal IBS

8 Tips to Improve Your Digestive Health

Article written by Robynne K. Chutkan, MD, FASGE
Dr. Robynne Chutkan is a Board Certified Gastroenterologist and an Assistant Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology at...