Explore Linda’s diet and lifestyle advice to help manage the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
IBS should be diagnosed by your GP. Once you have a diagnosis, it is perfectly possible to manage – and greatly improve – your symptoms with the following IBS diet plan.
Common IBS triggers
A bout of IBS is often triggered by one of these foods, so it is worth experimenting with eliminating them completely from your diet:
- Cow’s milk
- Citrus fruit
In addition, I advise my patients to avoid the following foods which can irritate the digestive tract:
- Pork, beef, veal, sausages and processed meats
- Gluten grains: in addition to wheat – barley, spelt, kamut, rye
- Soybean products
- Sugar and sweeteners such as Sorbitol
- Fructose syrups, maple syrup and sugar
- Dried fruit, packaged fruit juices
- Alcoholic drinks
- Look carefully at labels for ‘hidden’ ingredients – avoid MSG, rusk, wheat starch, bran, farina and malt.
Healing foods to try
The goal of an IBS diet plan is to heal inflammation in the digestive system whilst ensuring the levels of “good” bacteria outweigh the “bad”. This addresses what, in my experience, is the core issue in IBS sufferers – dysbiosis in the gut. The following foods are IBS-friendly and should be added to your diet:
- Add lean protein to each meal or snack. Try some of these combinations: salmon with leafy greens and quinoa or rice; eggs with tomatoes; fruit sprinkled with nuts and seeds. If eating animal protein, look for organic or free-range options.
- Choose cold-pressed oils, such as olive oil, sesame seed oil.
- Get plenty of fibre from non-starchy vegetables, flax seeds and fruits.
- Get essential fats from nuts, seeds, oily fish, coconut oil and olive oil.
- Drink water, green tea, lemon juice and herbal teas.
- Choose non-gluten grains: rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, tapioca.
- Try yam, soy, chickpeas and anything with gluten-free flour.
- Replace cow’s milk with rice or oat milk, or try goats’ or sheep milk – they contain casein, which can be a problem for some, but they are worth a go all the same.
- Use dairy-free spreads: nut or seed butters, or coconut butter.
- Ground flax seed, fennel, fenugreek and aloe vera all help to soothe the gut.
- Increase your intake of filtered water to 2-3 litres per day.
- Culinary herbs such as sage, papaya and pineapple are antiparasitic and so help balance good and bad bacteria in your digestive system.
- Garlic and caprylic acid are antifungal, so also help with bacteria balance.
- Increase fibre from vegetables and flax seed to normalise your bowel movements.
- Following an alkalizing diet can be beneficial – the diet includes vegetables, green juices, protein powders and whey protein.
Tailoring your supplements as part of an IBS diet plan
- Every IBS sufferer, in my experience, needs to take a daily high-strength multi-strain Live Bacteria (probiotic) capsules. My Live Bacteria contains four strains and a minimum of 4 billion colony-forming units, and is the product I recommend most often to my clinic patients to re-colonise their gut with “friendly” bacteria.
- The second most important supplement for IBS is a digestive enzyme, to help the body digest food so that painful bloating is less likely to occur. I’ve added calcium to my plant-derived Digestive Enzyme tablets to give your digestive system extra support. Take Live Bacteria with your breakfast and a Digestive Enzyme with your main meal in the evening – I’ve found this to be the best combination of supplements for most IBS symptoms.
- When the digestive system has been out of balance for some time, it can become inflamed and weakened. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe a stressed digestive system. I recommend my super-high-strength Omega 3 capsules to strengthen the digestive tract and calm inflammation – it works well with Live Bacteria and Digestive Enzymes – especially if you’ve had IBS symptoms for a while.
- If you suffer from recurring thrush, or have stubborn skin problems such as eczema, acne or rosacea alongside your IBS, it is likely you will need to add garlic to your supplements plan. Garlic is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, so can help address the overgrowth of yeasts that can be implicated in these skin conditions. My Garlic tablets are high in strength and yet low in odour, so you can take them daily without fear of garlic-breath!
- If constipation, or alternating constipation and diarrhoea, is a feature of your IBS, then a daily fibre supplement can help regulate your bowel movements. My Fibre tablets contain four types of vegetable-derived fibre to increase the density of your bowel movements, helping you to go to the loo comfortably every day.
- Finally, if embarrassing, smelly wind accompanies your IBS, an activated charcoal supplement is advised. Two capsules of my activated Charcoal capsules before, and after, each meal will help break up your gas into tiny bubbles so that it can be eliminated more gently and comfortably. Taking Garlic tablets alongside Charcoal will help address any offensive smell by addressing the toxins in your gut that are responsible for the odour.
- You might like to try my Tummy Tea, blended with the herbs and spices that I use every day in my clinic, to calm an upset tummy. It’s naturally caffeine-free so will soothe rather than irritate your digestive tract – drink it daily after meals for a little extra support for your digestion.
Additional advice for managing flare-ups
During a flare-up, implement my “IBS Hypercare” plan:
- For constipation and bloating, eat prunes, psyllium husks and soaked golden linseeds, as well as supplementing with Fibre tablets.
- Bathe in magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts).
- Increase Live Bacteria. Take 1-2 capsules with each meal.
- Take a Digestive Enzyme before every meal to help support digestion, and reduce gas and bloating.
- Take peppermint oil and reduce food intake to rest the digestive system.
- Take apple cider vinegar with meals and eat stewed apples with cinnamon to soothe the gut.
A tummy-friendly lifestyle
You may need to implement lifestyle changes as part of your IBS diet plan in order to successfully manage your symptoms. Try these ideas which I recommend to my patients:
- Think before you eat! Remember that good digestion begins in the mouth, not in the stomach. Chew food thoroughly, at least 20 times, ensuring plenty of saliva (where important digestion enzymes are contained) is mixed with the food before swallowing.
- Try to eat when relaxed. If you are in an eating situation, but you are feeling anxious and tense with your stomach in knots already, then take small mouthfuls of food and chew thoroughly before swallowing. Have a glass of tonic water before the meal.
- Don’t eat large meals especially after 7pm in the evening.
- Rethink your drinks! Don’t drink water with meals. Drink water half an hour before a meal, and an hour following a meal. Replace caffeine with herbal tea – try my Tummy Tea, or if you prefer, chamomile tea to calm the digestive system, licorice and fennel teas to calm and soothe, and peppermint tea if you’re feeling gassy – but don’t have too much as it can slow the bowel down and make you constipated. If you fancy something with a bit of fizz, try tonic water with real (not synthetic) quinine in it. It is very soothing for an irritated stomach and intestines. If you are getting severe IBS symptoms, refrain from any alcohol – it is very acidic and can begin to break down the mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines. Beer contains yeast and this can cause bloating and abdominal pain.
- Keep a record of what you eat and what effect it has on you. This will help to fine-tune a diet that meets your needs and keeps your symptoms at bay.
- Manage your stress. Try practising meditation, yoga, mindfulness and visualisation techniques.
- Consider colon hydrotherapy to help remove solid waste matter and reduce excessive intestinal gas. This treatment will help relieve spasms in the bowel and reduce the bloating and the abdominal pain.
- A colon hydrotherapist can also help if parasites or fungal yeast overgrowth in the intestines are a problem – the colonic treatment has the mechanical action of washing out parasites and ‘yeasts’ in the large bowel. Some colon hydrotherapists also use herbal tinctures and extracts to implant during the colonic treatment to further treat parasites and ‘yeasts’. This cleansing with colonic water and herbs can have the effect of ‘de-pressurising’ the large bowel and facilitating the release of congestion backing up in the small intestine, giving immediate relief from bloating, gas and pain.
- It has been shown that fasting reduces the symptoms of IBS. In a study where patients used medication vs fasting, those that fasted showed a 70% improvement in symptoms, with those that took medication having just a 30% improvement in symptoms: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17078771