Living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be unpredictable and frustrating. Whether you’re experiencing IBS-D (diarrhea predominant) or another type of IBS, diet plays a major role in preventing and controlling flare-ups.
That’s why Dr. Prem Chattoo at Hudson River Gastroenterology includes dietary guidelines when treating individuals with IBS. When you’re experiencing a flare-up, it's crucial to understand which foods can help alleviate symptoms and which ones can exacerbate them.
Here's a guide from Dr. Chattoo and his team about your diet during an IBS diarrhea flare-up.
Diarrhea can lead to dehydration. It's essential to drink plenty of fluids. Aim for clear, hydrating liquids like water or herbal (non-caffeinated) teas.
Dr. Chattoo may recommend sports drinks or other nutritional beverages in moderation. However, artificial sweeteners can trigger diarrhea in some people, so they should be avoided if that’s the case.
Because coffee is a natural stimulant, Dr. Chattoo also recommends at least limiting or avoiding coffee altogether if possible.
Make temporary changes
IBS-D diets during a flare-up can be somewhat restrictive, so they might be a temporary solution. The goal is to rest the digestive system and get the inflammation under control. Then, add foods back slowly, adjusting as you go until your symptoms are managed.
A number of people with IBS find relief by following a low-FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that some people find difficult to digest. This type of diet, again, is a temporary step in helping you define which foods tend to trigger your IBS-D symptoms.
Foods to include during an IBS-D flare
Because high-fat foods can sometimes trigger IBS-D symptoms, we generally recommend avoiding fried items, buttery dishes, and heavy creams during a flare.
Additionally, spices, especially the hotter ones, can irritate the gut and may cause or worsen diarrhea in some people with IBS-D.
Otherwise, it’s essential to maintain a balanced diet to ensure you’re receiving the calories and nutrients necessary for your overall health.
Thus, dietary recommendations may include:
Include lean meats, eggs, and fish to ensure adequate protein intake during an IBS flare. Avoid heavily spiced and processed meats (sandwich meat, etc.) and fried foods. Poach or boil eggs to avoid added fats.
Berries and other fruits with seeds are harder to digest. So, during a flare, try bananas, cantaloupe, papaya, and other seedless fruits. Make sure the fruits are ripe to make digestion easier.
Fresh vegetables are a mainstay in a balanced diet. However, vegetables should be well-cooked and not fried during an IBS flare-up. Homemade broths and soups are an excellent way to include vital nutrients from lean proteins and well-cooked vegetables in your diet without stressing your digestive system.
Some vegetables that many people find difficult to digest during a flare, no matter how well-cooked, include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Winter squash
- Lima beans
Reintroduce vegetables to your diet slowly after your symptoms have quieted.
Oats, brown rice, popcorn, barley, and bread made with wheat are good sources of fiber in a balanced diet. However, they may trigger worsening symptoms during a flare.
On the other hand, potatoes (without skin) and carrots contain soluble fiber that may help bulk your stools during an IBS-D flare-up.
Products made from cow’s milk may worsen symptoms due to their lactose content. We typically recommend avoiding milk, ice cream, and pudding. Some aged cheeses (i.e., cheddar, Colby, Swiss) and yogurt have only trace lactose and may be better tolerated.
Everyone with IBS has a unique set of triggers. Schedule a visit with Dr. Chattoo at Hudson River Gastroenterology today for a customized treatment and diet strategy that fits your needs. Call the office or request an appointment online.