8 Tips to Combat IBS

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects more than 600,000 people in the U.S. While it may not be a comfortable subject to address, it’s even more uncomfortable for those who suffer from it every day! I know firsthand.

After suffering from IBS and migraines in my late teens and early 20s, I found ways to change my diet and lifestyle to heal my digestive system and prevent future IBS attacks.  Not only was diet key in resolving my symptoms (which greatly interfered with my college lifestyle!) but eventually getting my sleep regulated and being in a long-term healthy relationship with my wonderful husband has helped to keep IBS at bay for over 10 years, even during pregnancy.

What is IBS?
IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder.  Also known as “spastic colon” or “nervous colon”, IBS is considered a functional bowel disorder, meaning that the function of digestion is altered causing mid to lower intestinal bloating, constipation or diarrhea without any evidence of a structural or biochemical cause.

What are IBS symptoms?
IBS is often a “catch all” diagnosis when no formal cause of GI distress can be identified, such as a blockage, colitis, Crohn’s disease, cancer, etc. IBS symptoms vary from person to person and the solutions to help alleviate it are also different for each individual.

What causes IBS?
IBS is not only connected to diet but also stress and wellness in general.

What can you do to reduce IBS flare-ups?
Investigate which may apply to you by trying to modify your diet one item at a time.  A Reboot is a great way to start since it can be a natural elimination diet

1.)    One of the best ways to reduce IBS flare-ups, especially if you suffer from constipation is eating a plant-based diet with plenty of fiber and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.  Stay well hydrated.

2.)    Limit alcohol consumption.

3.)    Avoid fatty foods and very large meals.

4.)    Consistency is key.  Eating fiber-rich plant foods, drinking water and following an eating and sleeping schedule are important for anyone trying to control their IBS.

5.)    Be wary of certain foods, even some healthy ones!  IBS-trigger foods can include fermentable carbohydrates and a new approach is thought to help up to 75% of sufferers.  FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols – which are a group of short-chain carbohydrates.   Not everyone needs to avoid or limit all of these foods, but they are worth exploring to see if you can get some relief.

6.)    Limit or avoid lactose (the sugar in dairy products).

7.)    Limit high fructose foods especially processed sugary, packaged foods.

8.)    Other potential offenders to try eliminating:

Inulin fibers
Beans, legumes
Onions, garlic, leeks
Artificial sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like sorbitol, xylitol (in many sugar-free gums)
Apples, pears, mango, watermelon, prunes, peaches, plums
Broccoli, cabbage, beets, Brussels sprouts, radish
Soy foods and products
Coconut milk
Dried fruit
Commercial Juice (we don’t mean the kind out of your juicer)

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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