IBS and Food Strategies

In one of my nutrition courses, the subject was IBS and food strategies to address it.


In Emeran A. Mayer’s research article Gut Feelings: the emerging biology of gut-brain communication it states:

. . . there is ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ communication between the brain and the GI tract . . .  ‘top-down’ communication of emotional states can affect the motor, secretory, and immune activity of the GI tract . . . ‘bottom-up’ communication of things like microbial health can affect emotional states and mood.”

There are different triggers for different people i.e. food, too little water, stress, sleep, OTC medications, etc.  A couple suggestions would be:

1. Find ways to relax.

Stress is strongly linked to IBS and can worsen symptoms.  That could attribute to the fact that people have worse symptoms on weekdays and later in the day.  Try to reduce/cope with stress levels by doing something enjoyable such as a brief walk or relaxation exercises, mindfulness, or meditation for 10-15 minutes at lunchtime.  Or try physical exercise before or after work.

2. Track triggers.

It may be one food group or a number of foods that trigger symptoms in addition to OTC medications.  Possible food triggers include:

Broccoli, onions, and cabbage, fried or fatty foods like French fries, milk or dairy products such as cheese or ice cream, chocolate, gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley
Keep a diet diary but include symptoms and feeling 30-45 minutes after eating.  Share with physician to interpret results; and then with nutritionist or trainer to discuss possible options.

I found this excerpt to be quite interesting:

There are significant side effects with many OTC and commonly prescribed stomach remedies.  For example:

  • Proton pump inhibitors, which are commonly given for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can disrupt electrolyte balance (chiefly magnesium) and consequently bone density and heart rhythm.
  • Loperamide, the active ingredient in OTC diarrhea remedies, slows intestinal motility by relaxing the longitudinal smooth muscle of the GI tract. If taken too often, it can disrupt normal digestion, causing constipation, bloating, and nausea — in extreme cases, even liver damage. Because it works via the opioid pathways, long-term use can even cause mild opiate withdrawal when discontinued.
  • Antacids, whether calcium-, aluminum- or magnesium-based, reduce stomach acidity by mineral buffering. Over time, and in excessive amounts, these can disrupt natural mineral balance in the body and interfere with proper stomach acid production.
  • All medications can also disrupt the stomach’s natural acid production (which is often too low rather than too high) and/or the GI tract’s natural flora.And yet, these medications are some of the top-selling drugs in North America. IBS and its variants are common.

3. Rethink diet.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all diet, try a more balanced, healthy diet, low in caffeine (gut stimulant). Try to limit carbonated beverages, highly caffeinated coffee & teas, some sweetened soda drinks, alcohol, and sugar-free candy & gum containing Sorbitol.

If that doesn’t work, you could try an elimination diet.  If you think certain foods might be triggering symptoms, eliminate from diet one at a time, and record feelings and/or symptoms of how that feels.





4. Get moving.

Two tips to help move food and waste through the body are:

  • Exercise i.e. walking, stretching, bicycling, yoga.
  • Drinking Plenty of Water.  At least six 8-ounce glasses of plain water each day.  Can be with meals but also separately.  One suggestion, drink an hour before or an hour after meals.

5. How you eat.

  • Combining extreme temperatures, ice-cold water with steaming hot soup.
  • Large meals.  Try to eat less at each meal, or have 5-6 small meals a day.
  • Plan ahead so not rushed to grab irritants or skipping meals, etc. Keep non-refrigerated foods you can tolerate on hand in case of emergency.
  • Many benefits to eating slowly.  As mentioned in “About Eating Slowly” by Brian St. Pierre “The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals. Meanwhile, eating quickly leads to poor digestion, increased weight gain, and lower satisfaction.  The message is clear: Slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.”

Time for more experimenting with different foods and stress release techniques.  Symptoms of IBS can be decreased or eliminated as well with (1) communication and (2) food journaling.  It’s a journey of trial & error that is definitely worth taking.

Until next time, remember I’m only one click away.


Your friend and coach Jessica
Fit50andFab, LLC

Emeran A. Mayer
Precision Nutrition